9. A Notorious Bridewell Prison Existed on the Site of City Hall Park
Image from New York Public Library
The Bridewell on the west side of City Hall was a combination workhouse, jail and prison. Named after the prison in London that was converted from the palace of Henry VIII, New York City’s Bridewell was so important, it was labeled on the Commissioners’ Plan for 1811 that laid out New York City’s street plan.
Its most notorious reputation came from during the American Revolution, when it was a British controlled prison. Construction on Bridewell began in 1775, a year before the Revolution, and the British didn’t bother to finish the prison. Prisoners reported that there were no panes in the windows to keep out the cold and conditions were likely similar to those in the sugarhouse prisons nearby.