Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Twelfth Night Delights in the Prison Yard

"Midnight Revels in the Great Court Yard
of the Famous New Orleans Jail."

Reported by The Galveston Daily News following a story from the Picayune January 1895:

One of the show places of New Orleans has for years been the old parish prison. A gloomy, gray pile, with forbidding exterior of stuccoed walls, it has been the "bogy man" of the thousands of children who have played near it in Congo square. Its slimy corridors have re-echoed the hopeless tread of the condemned, the timid walk of the curious, and the defiant step of the captured bandit, whose pinions have been plucked by the strong arm of the law. But no more will its walls be re-stormed by outraged populace nor its gates swing on rusty hinges to receive unfortunates who enter and leave all hope behind. The old prison has served its time as such, and is now given over to spooks and spirits, that they may hold their orgies unchecked by human presence.
* * *
What could be better adapted to the visitations of ghosts than the parish prison? Where could a more ideal place be found for their constant habitation and abode? The fact that they live in the old pile is established by the fact. They have been seen roaming the courtyards and climbing invisible ladders to the roofs. It is their wont to play a pantomime near a condemned cell and peep with lifeless eyes between the grated doors upon the sleeping prisoners. Often in the still hours of the night, when the fog settles down over the city, these ghosts come out of the crannied walls, assume earthly habiliments, and with the striking of the midnight clock begin their carnival of weird delights.

To read more of this article, consult the database 19th-Century U.S. Newspapers available to Tulane affiliates through its portal here.

The Old Parish Prison, built between 1832 and 1836, was located on Orleans Street between Marais and Treme. The three-story structure was designed by Joseph H. Pilié and A. Voilquin, was vacated in 1894 and razed in 1939.

Image above. Unidentified photographer. Old Parish Prison. circa 1915-30. Miscellaneous Photographs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.


Linda Barwick said...

Hi, I'm interested to know whether there are any other records of the architect A. Voilquin. I have a family connection with Suzanne Voilquin, whose husband Remy Voilquin, an architect, came to New Orleans in the 1830s. I wonder if this could be the same man.

Keli Rylance said...

Toledano and Christovich, New Orleans Architecture, vol. 6 p. 63 mention A. Voilquin. Best bet to find more information may be the New Orleans Notarial Archive, possibly the State Museum.