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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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County Jail

County Jail

GRHC - November 28th, 2012

For many years the Kent County jail, which stood on the east bank of the Grand River, was considered one of the prettiest blocks in the city.


In 1841 Louis Campau purchased Island No. 2 in the Grand River from the United States Government. In 1869 the County Board of Supervisors purchased property on the island, bounded by Louis, Campau, Pike Streets, and the Grand River. The location would become the site of a new county jail.

The construction contract was awarded to Davidson, Farr & Co. at $35,000. The building was completed in March 1872. The jail, a substantial brick structure, was supported by a stone basement. Interior walls were sheathed with heavy boiler iron for the safe keeping of prisoners. The cells were mostly of iron, with partitions of heavy iron lattice or picket work. The Sheriff’s residence occupied the second floor. Outwardly the building was considered among the prettiest blocks in the city. Later, both City Hall and the Court House would assume that distinction.

Despite being strongly built, prisoners did escape. In July 1875, six prisoners made their exit through a hole they had dug in the wall. Four others escaped in a similar manner in August 1878 by sawing off several bars of iron. In 1884, noted local foundry owner, Adolph Leitelt, lined the exterior walls with boiler iron.

Following completion, in 1882, of the Grand Rapids police department building, which included a jail, the county jail declined. The once handsome edifice eventually becoming the subject of jest and derision.


Full Details

TitleCounty Jail
KeywordsWYCE; radio; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; history; Kent County Jail; Grand River
Pubdate StringNovember 28th, 2012

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