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I Forge Iron

Architectural Iron: historical


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I'm currently a corrections officer at Attica prison in western NY. I have questions about some of the architectural ironwork that is original to the facility and who might be responsible for them.

(I'll try to get some photos when available, but without SUPER SPECIAL permission from the ivory palace, a camera is verboten.)

Construction for the facility was completed in 1931. Obviously in 83 years, many things have changed. However, there are certain LARGE gates, railings, etc. that are original to the 1930's. There are many of these around the facility in various areas, including the area where I work. It would be easy to disregard these pieces as "local" smithing... But I suspect a larger shop was involved (along the lines of Samuel Yellin's in Philly).

Does anyone have any idea where I might begin to research it? There is an Attica Prison Museum in the works and if a significant shop were involved, I'd consider it an important addition. I'll try to get photos. If nothing else, I can probably sketch what I see daily.

Bill

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Look in old newspapers for information on the building of it too.  I have an old book on prisons I got for the pictures of the blacksmith shops in some of them.  Don't know if it would help and it will be several weeks before I get back to my research library---which seems to be gradually migrating down here question by question...

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Here's a small example of that I'm talking about. Wrought iron decorative screws/nails that adorn heavy wooden exterior doors. You just don't put this kind of effort into a prison these days. Guess I'm going to have to contact Albany for permission to research it. There's so much more. Will share when I'm able.

post-3470-0-40511300-1398876201_thumb.jp

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  • 7 months later...

Update: I contacted the state archives. They put me in contact with the NYS Office of General Services (OGS) which deals with any outside contractors, etc. OGS needed a FOIA request, which I emailed them. Several weeks later, I received email from my contact at OGS - unfortunately no records as such could be found. Both the state archives and the OGS rep seemed genuinely interested in this endeavor.

I'm not done yet. I'm going to do some sketches of some of these pieces so I can share them with you folks. Photography inside a state correctional facility requires major approval from Albany. Just not feeling that adventurous on an unfounded hunch. Will keep you posted.

Bill

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Nice.

 

You might also see if someone on site already has permission to take picts. Then ask them if they can take picts of what you want. I'm betting someone there has permission, it's just getting the approval on site from whom ever their boss is to document the areas you want. They might be able to "justify" it as existing condition documentation for purposes of maintenance and upkeep. If they are already working on a museum, some sort of picture approval may have already been given to someone.

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Not to forget there may already be pictures, or blueprints existing (tho finding them....) TP may have the right idea, the newspaper archives may be a beter bet. As more copies (the news paper and public and privat libraries) means that one broken pipe in a basment some where hasnt destroyed them all)
careful, you may end up tranferd to maintinance, lol. Might want to forge replacements for thise nails, and give them to the warden ;-)

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One possibility if the facility was opened in stages:  Some of the work may be by inmates.  There were certainly blacksmiths who had gotten themselves into trouble and may have been put to work making things for the unfinished parts of the prison.  Also, this could have been seen as vocational training.

 

I second the idea of looking at the local newspapers during the period of construction.  It may be an empty rabbit hole but it is one which you will need to check out.

 

Researchingly,

George M. 

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NY Times has a great digital archive on line.  You can search for anything they have with just a few clicks...and it covers their entire production from 1851 to present.  I am sure that they covered the prison when it was built and changes over the years.

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