Luzerne County Prison, 1873, Description

The building is erected on the centre of a lot of ground containing about five acres, which is about five hundred feet wide, and runs from the Plank Road to the Susquehanna River.

It was selected on account of its peculiar aptitude and fitness. The building faces the river. Being situated directly upon the bank of the river, (the current of which, at this place, is very rapid), at a height of about forty-five feet above the level of the stream at low water, there is no difficulty in discharging and carrying off the refuse and sewerage of the Prison, which is done by best terra-cota vitrified drain-pipes, through a brick sewer into the river, at a point beyond low-water mark ; and should there, at any time, be any need of a larger supply of water, than is now available, it could be easily obtained from the river.

The style in which the whole of the structure has been designed is the castellated, or what is more generally known as the "Prison Style"; and the effect is most striking and imposing, being in unison with the purpose for which it was designed.

The whole exterior of the edifice is constructed of a greenish drab sandstone. The facing of the whole of the front and flanks is of cut stone. The pile consists of a centre building sixty feet in width' and about forty feet deep, two stories high, exclusive of basement, with two towers on the front, which each have an additional story. This portion contains the residence of the Warden, also a Registering Office, Board and Committee Rooms and Laundry. To the rear of the centre building and divided from it by a ten feet corridor, is a one-story structure with basement, used for kitchen, bakery, pantry, engine and boiler-house. The ten feet corridor leads right and left to the two wings, extending at right angles from the'rear of the front building, having a front of two hundred and eight feet and running back two hundred and four in depth, each of a width of forty-seven feet.

These wings contain the Prison cells, which are in two tiers, isolated from the external walls. The second tier has an iron balcony surrounding it, approached by stair-cases of iron. Adjoining these cells are the Lavatories, Clothing Rooms, and Turnkey's Rooms. There are in all seventy-two cells; twenty-eight double and forty-four single ; and so arranged that each double cell can be formed into two single ones.

The cells are all lined with solid stone slabs reaching from side to side, four to six inchesithick, and the floors and ceiling are of the same material, similarly arranged. They are so arranged with respect to the external windows, that the sun shines through into the back part of the cells every day when unobscored by clouds. The corridor, ten feet wide and eighteen feet high, extends entirely around the block containing the cells.

Bach wing is constructed fire proof, in order that, in the event of a fire taking place in the front portion, communication between it and the wings* could be at once cut off by heavy iron doors.

The Prison, as will be seen, is of two stories, the wings each containing a double tier of cells in each story. Should it, at any future time, be desired to enlarge the building, the manner in which it has been located on the lot will permit of its being extended without difficulty. Its capacity can be increased one-half by building! another tier of cells on the present, and doubled by building two tiers, without extending the building upon the ground, and at slight expense.

All the roofs were laid with the best quality of slate, except the flat portions, which were laid with the best X leaded roofing tin, in the most approved and substantial manner, but experience has shown that the slate roof is a failure. The vast amount of sulphur thrown off from the burning coal and mines of the valley, coming in contact in the atmosphere witli other matter and gases, becomes converted into sulphuric acid which falling upon a slate roof, eats out the cement of the slate, causing it to crumble to pieces and waste away. This same material coming in contact with the copper wires which are used to tie the slate to the iron lath of the-roof, forms, a galvanic battery, which set in motion soon eats up the wires, and thus the slate is permitted to slide down from the roof in sections of four or five feet square. This difficulty has already been experienced, with the Prison roof, and the Commissioners are liow endeavoring to ascertain the best method and the best material with which to reconstruct the roof

All that skill and,science can accomplish has been bestowed upon the mode of ventilation and of heating this building. The heating apparatus is the self regulating hot-water of Morris, Tasker & Co , of Philadelphia. This has been proved to be a most convenient and safe, and at the same time effectual means of warming the building. It consists of cast-iron boilers, made in sections, and the proper amount of heat regulated by three dampers, which are again operated by the expansion of the water at the different temperatures. The radiating surface is of cast-iron.

In order to insure the most perfect ventilation possible, a double dise ventilating fan is used, eight feet in diameter, and driven by steam-power. This fan is capable of discharging from 75,000 to 100,000 cubic feet of air per minute; and the air duct from it is connected with all the radiator chambers, so that, iu winter, the air is heated previous to its discharge into other rooms The foul air in the building is forced down through flues (one to each cell and room), into a horizontal under-ground duct opening into an annular space around the main boiler flue, where it is raritied and discharged. This method, combining natural and forced ventilation, is now universally adopted in the best appointed modern public buildings, more especially in hospitals and jails, where plenty of fresh air must be continually furnished throughout the entire year, to absord and carry off the noisome effluvia and vapors arising from diseased and negligent inmates.

The ventilating and heating of the cells and corridors is performed by the same process. The cool fresh air from without is brought into the building, and passing over the steam heaters is transmitted through the corridors. The fan and the draught in the smoke-stack are connected with flues extending into the cells, two to each, one at the bottom and one at the top. By the operation of the fan and the draught of the smoke-stack, the air in the cells is drawn out, and the warm air of the corridors passes into cells to supply its place, thereby introducing fresh air.

In all other respects the most perfect and complete disposition has been made for the internal arrangements and convenience of its inmates. Nothing has been left undone that could be devised for the comfort and the proper furnishing of the building in the way of bath-tubs, wash-tubs, water-closets, and wash basins, sinks, ranges, and plumbing and gas-fitting in general. In short, the wishes of the Commissioners of the county seem to have been most fully and ably carried out by Mr McArthur and his assistants, Messrs. Wm. S. Andrews and Reuben W. Peterson, (the latter of whom, we regret to say, has since died), iu the erection of the building, destined to remain for ages and to meet the requirements of a very large and rapidly increasing population.

1. "Description of the Prison," Third Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners of the Luzern County Prison with a List of the Convicts, 1873, pages 26-29.

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