I know very little about the building across the road from the General Penitentiary (now called the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre), but have wondered about its history. It is a striking building, even in its derelict state.
I noticed it some time ago on a visit to the prison, which is itself in need of much repair and is certainly not suited for housing the men it does. The overcrowded, inhumane conditions do not lend themselves to the rehabilitation of the inmates in the custody of the state. Perhaps the condition of the building across the road is a visible reminder of things that have fallen apart.
The Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) website does mention the site on its list of past JNHT projects, referring to it as “the General Penitentiary Staff Club and Support Facilities compound” and says the following:
Tower Street – General Penitentiary
Archaeological Impact Assessment Project (AIA)
The Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) has concluded a Heritage Assessment on lands situated at the General Penitentiary Staff Club and Support Facilities compound along Tower Street, Kingston Jamaica. This Heritage Assessment was carried out in response to the National Housing Trust’s (NHT) proposed development of inner city housing solutions on these lands
A team from the JNHT carried out an archaeological appraisal (survey) and architectural assessment of the proposed development area. Our main objective was to identify cultural heritage resources, appraise their worth and their potential contribution to the advancement of the community’s sustainable development.
Kingston was officially founded in 1692 after the catastrophic earthquake that devastated Port Royal. The city expanded from a small seaport town to a spreading city due in large measure to the creation of a number of townships which helped to increase its size. In the early 19th century, the town expanded in both easterly and north-westerly directions. Rae Town was one of the earliest of these planned extensions.
Most of the buildings along Tower Street possess exquisite Jamaican Georgian architecture, and along with the General Penitentiary, are fundamental features of the Tower Street historical streetscape. They are of great architectural and historical significance. It is important that these buildings be preserved and integrated into the proposed development.
I was told that neither the buildings of the Staff Club compound nor the prison buildings are on the JNHT list of declared sites.
This is a closer look at the site on Google maps, on which I have scribbled a few labels. The main derelict building is circled, with the arrow pointing to the front entrance. 2 shows the parking lot and 1 indicates the front gate of the prison across the road. 3 shows another nearby derelict building, pictures of which I have also included in this post.
The main entrance to the building is open and is flanked by doorways labeled Lecture Rooms No.1 and No.2, harking back to a time when the building was used for training for correctional officers.
The door to Lecture Room No.1 still has a padlock on it, a rather ironic touch in the circumstances.
When you look through the front door, you can see the staircase and the doors to the two Lecture Rooms on either side.
Standing at the left end of the front porch…
…looking into Lecture Room No.2…
…with the list on the wall of 45 Qualities of a Good Prison Officer.
A walk down the porch along the left side of the building leads to the back of the structure, some of which seemed to be in slightly better condition.
Standing at the back, I could see through the hallway past the staircase, out through the front door, across the parking lot to the front of GP.
The porch along the right side of the building leads to a section that is made of brick on both storeys…
An open door off that porch revealed some signs of more recent habitation.
The short road running along the left side of the parking lot is labeled Tower Street on the Google map, but it isn’t THE Tower Street; it is a side road which has a dead end.
Looking the other way, down the road, you see a smaller building in disrepair and the front of GP.
This building is in two sections facing a small courtyard.
Both sections are in poor condition…
…but still show some of the distinctive features of the building.
I was very surprised to learn from some correctional officers who were in the parking lot that parts of the main building and the smaller building were used by some correctional officers for changing and even for staying overnight. Anyone having to use these buildings, particularly the upper storeys, is at real risk of injury and it raises an issue regarding provision of facilities for correctional officers who work at the correctional center.
So far I have found little information about these buildings and obviously there is much more to be found out regarding their history and any plans for what is to happen to them. This is the third post in my series on derelict buildings and I had far more information in the first two. I’d be interested in any information or leads anyone can provide. But today I felt like posting these photos, which I took a few months ago. So here they are!