Due to the sensitive nature of this location, I’ll be keeping the history out of this post. What I can say is that the prison was built in 1858 using local limestone and built by the prisoners that would eventually occupy this sprawling complex. It was expanded many times over the course of it’s history and finally closed in 2004. If you recognize it, please don’t put the name out there.
Saturday, 9:15am: I head out from my hotel and get in my car, I’m about 7 hours from home, and heading into Chicago. As the skyline of the loop comes into view on the interstate my iPod decides to give me a bit of humour by playing the theme song to Due South. After wandering around the neighborhood, I finally find Cross’ apartment and meet both him and his girlfriend Emma who would drive me out to the prison and guide me for the first part of the day.
11am: We finally make the hour drive from Cross’ apartment to our parking spot, still a mile or so from the jail. Being a national historic site, there is a parking lot out in front, but non-explorers stop there to look at plaques about the jail, and cops are known to park there also, and since we weren’t going to read plaques, we took the walk.
After finding our way in, navigating through fence holes, fallen razor wire, and avoiding being seen by the family parked out front, we get inside the admin building. They certainly don’t make them like this. Woodwork, high ceilings, fireplaces. All the trappings of a modern castle. But like all castles, this one had plenty of dungeons.
The Place was huge, the main building housed thousands of prisoners. Unlike modern jails each cell had it own key, big solid brass keys. Also, it has every type of exploring out there. Prisons, Church, Hospital, School, Tunnels, even rooftops!
The size of the place was overwhelming, trappings from various movies and TV shows that were filmed here were scattered around the yard. Left over prison records stored in boxes, along with surplus equipment and hardware stacked to the rafters in warehouses.
1pm: Emma and Cross had to depart to get ready for a party they were hosting later that night, but I was allowed to stay with the arrival of MsMis, another local, we had been talking for over a year before we actually met in person. So we continued our trip through the prison. Discovering a few new areas that I had missed in the morning.
One of the sore points around this location is the sudden increase in tags and graffiti being panted on this once 100% pristine location. No major scrapping has happened, but items have vanished and have been appearing online on popular auction sites.
5pm: Where had the day gone…oh right, six hours inside will do that. MsMis and I effect our (not so well planned) escape and headed back into the city for an evening of climbing a decommissioned rail bridge and a hotel rooftop.
Nikon D300 – AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm 1:2.8G