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The Cook County Criminal Court and Jailhouse
Life Span: 1874-1892 (Criminal Court), 1936 (Jailhouse)
Location: Dearborn and Hubbard Streets
Architect: Armstrong & Egan
The Land Owner, December, 1872
THE NEW COUNTY JAIL AND CRIMINAL COURT BUILDING.
The stricken North Side will soon be able to boast of far better structures than it possessed before the fire. Among these the new county jail and criminal court buildings, now being erected on North Dearborn, Illinois and Michigan streets, stand conspicuous from their solidity and comprehensive architecture. These buildings are illustrated by a superb double-page plate in this issue.
The Cook County Criminal Court and Jailhouse
The Land Owner
The entire establishment comprises three detached buildings; a court house, 140 feet on Michigan street by 65 feet on Dearborn street; a residence building, with a frontage of 137 feet on Michigan and Illinois streets; and a jail, or cell building, with a front of 141 feet on Illinois street. The court house contains a court room of 95 feet in length by 45 feet in width, extending through the second and third stories, with abundant offices, witness rooms, and retiring rooms at either end, a grand jury room, 40 feet by 25 feet, all of which are approached by a main entrance hall, opening on Michigan street, 25 feet wide and 18 feet high, terminating in a great portico on that street, which forms the main features of the design, as seen in our illustration. On either side of this main hall are placed the offices for the different county officials; coroner, recorder, states attorney, etc., all fitted up with proper water facilities, fire-proof vaults, muniment room, etc. There are also entrances from Dearborn street and the alley way on the west side of the court rooms.
The residence building is intended to accommodate the prison officials and servants, and also contains male and female wards, rooms for the detention of witnesses and debtors, who are thus kept entirely apart from the criminal classes. The view here presented shows the court house and residence portion as seen from the southeast corner of Dearborn and Michigan streets, the building being situated on the northwest corner.
It is intended to have the jail and court house as near as possible fire-proof; but the architects, Messrs. Armstrong & Egan, depend much upon the principle of detaching the building for the securing of this most desirable result.
The jail contains a male ward of 136 cells, female ward of 14 cells, and insane male and female wards, with seven padded cells for each, and is so arranged that each ward opens only into a guard room, placed at a central point. There are also covered corridors attached to each, for the exercise of prisoners, and open court yards for the same purpose for each class of prisoners, including debtors. The entire structure will be thoroughly heated and ventilated, the basement of all three buildings being entirely devoted to heating and culinary apparatus, and natural ventilation being secured by detaching the buildings.
The Cook County Criminal Court under construction in 1874.
Chicago Tribune, February 16, 1874
Now that the North Side has attained to the dignity of holding our County Jail, and other matters pertaining to that institution, it may not be inapt, especially as part of the new edifice is to be immediately occupied, to give the readers of The Tribune some account of the new venture.
The property which is a part of the new building now occupies was originally owned by E. and J. Bussing, of New York, Lieut. J. D. Webster, who was stationed at Fort Dearborn, and a Mr. Duff. The Bussings owned the north lots—Nos. 11, 12, and 13; Mr. Webster lots Nos. 23, 24, 25, and 26, and Mr. Duff lot No. 109. There were no buildings on the property except on the latter’s lot, and his “improvements” consisted of a shanty that cost, when erected, about $200.
JEALOUS OF OLD.
The people of the North Side were somewhat jealous of their neighbors on the South Side, who had a gorgeous market. They were obliged to come over the creek in order to get their meat, and hence they thought it was essential to their welfare and convenience that they, too, should have a market-house. The subject was agitated, and , in October of 1850, the Council Committee on Markets were directed to examine the matter. They requested propositions, and received three: One from Mr. Burch, the agent of the Bussings, who offered the city the three lots named for $1,300, stipulating, however, that the city should not impose a tax or assessment on their other property in the same block, and that a market-house should be erected on the land; another from Lieut. Webster, who proposed to sell his lots for $2,075, the city to pay him $500 and assume the remaining payments to the person from whom he had purchased the holding the property i=under as trust-deed; and the other from Mr. Duff, who wanted $500 for his lot, and the value of the “improvements,” which latter was to be determined by three disinterested persons.
RAISING THE MONEY.
After some controversy, the Bussings modified their terms, and on 26th of March, 1851, the order was passed by the Council for the purchase of the ground and the erection of the market-house. The Mayor and Clerk were authorized to issue city bonds to the amount of $10,000, payable in fifteen years, and to pledge for the payment thereof, in addition to the faith of the city, the land on which the building was to stand. The Finance Committee were directed to negotiate the bonds “on such terms as they could make, and to charge the bonds to the account of the North Division, to be reimbursed to the city from the revenue of the market, or from taxation upon the real estate and personal property in that division, “in accordance with the Charter,” if any part of the principal or interest remained unpaid when the bonds matured. In case the revenues of the market were insufficient to pay the interest to pay the interest, it provided that the deficiency should be raised by taxation.
A special committee of three Alderman was appointed, to make contracts for the erection of the market-house and superintend its construction.
Who the Committeemen were, or when the erection of the building was first commenced, is not known definitely, the records of the Council having been burned up. It was probably begun in June or July, 1851, for in April, 1852, the Clerk was ordered to finish the lower portion.
THE MARKET HALL.
Probably more than than the $10,000 authorized was expended, as the structure was a substantial one. It was a brick building, 50 feet wide by 140 feet long, and two stories in height. The lower portion was used as a market, the second floor contained a large, hall in the centre, and dressing and wash-rooms at one end, and a kitchen and store-rooms in the other. There was an open space around the building forty-five feet wide, affording easy access to it.
The hall was one the largest in the city, and was used frequently for balls and political meetings. It was here that Stephen A. Douglas, in September, 1854, attempted to speak upon the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and was forced to desist. The audience became too noisy, and threw rotten eggs, chips, and other things at the Little Giant, but Ald. Keith was the only one who struck. The gas was turned off, and nearly everybody got another man’s hat.
A POLICE STATION.
The police took possession of the two ends of the second floor in 1855, when the public market system came to an end , the rear end being fitted up for a lock-up, and the front on Michigan street used as quarters for the officers. They moved out in 1869, and took possession of the more convenient Huron Street Station.
A BILLIAD-TABLE MANUFACTURER
then moved in, and occupied the building when it was partially destroyed by firein the fall of 1869. The lower portion continued to be occupied as a market-house up to the time of “Red Monday.” when only a pile of bricks remained on the site.
Criminal Court Building
From A. T. Andreas’ History of Chicago
THE NEW BUILDING.
About three months after the great fire, the question of building a Jail and Criminal Court separate from the Court-House was discussed, and several consultations were held between the Committee on County Relations of the Board of County Commissioners and the Mayor, Corporation Council, and the Council Committee on County Relations.
On the 5th of February, 1872, the former committee reported to the Board, recommending that the city give use of these grounds for the purpose of constructing a jail on it, the county to put up the building.
The report was concurred in, and after some more consultations, the transfer was consummated.
MORE GROUND WANTED.
It was then found that the ground formerly occupied by the market house was inadequate, and that more land was necessary. Besides the property owners on Dearborn street objected to the erection of the jail, as it had been stipulated by the Blessings that the ground should be used for market purposes only. They were, however, willing to withdraw their objections, if the county would buy their land. Thus the County Commissioners decided to do. They had no available funds, and proposed to pay in certificates, but the property-holders were dissatisfied. After much arguing, the matter was compromised, and bonds were given. Two lots were bought of James H. Rees and E. K. N=Beach for $15,000, five from George A. Stevens and Jarah D. Cole for $30,000, and two from Charles H. Chapin for $12,000.
It will be remembered that the firm of Armstrong & Egan, architects, drew the prize in the contest of plans for building the new Criminal Court and County Jail. Their plan combined simplicity, beauty, economy, and usefulness in a very marked degree. Ald. Mike Bailey, in conjunction with John Doyle, and another person, the latter two having since been thrown by the Common Council, secured the contract for the main work, and had the say in the minor contracts.
THE WORK OF ERECTION
was commenced in the opening of 1873, the foundations having been placed during the preceding fall, and since that period, the work has made very satisfactory progress. Some account of the plan of the structure was given at the time of awarding of the prize, but as the eastern wing will be occupied on the 20th instant, The Tribune publishes herewith a full sketch of the new building.
THE GENERAL GROUP
of the design comprises three distinct or detached buildings, namely the Criminal Court House, a massive marble-front edifice, of massive properties and imposing appearance, which has a frontage of 145 feet on Michigan street and of 655 feet , the full depth of the building, on Dearborn street and the alley way, runniung betwixt the west wall of the structure and North Clark street.
The residence building, for the Sheriff and other county officials, has 137 feet front in Dearborn street, and a depth of 45 feet on Illinois and Michigan streets. This potion of the structure is faced with pressed brick and heavy cut-stone, which has quite a Philadelphian air about it.
The third member of the group, known as the Jail Building, fronts on Illinois street to the extent of 144¼ feet, and has a depth of 145 feet on the carriage-way, which divides it from the residence portion. This section is also faced with brick and limestone dressing.
The Court-House front looks proudly down on Michigan street, and is designed on the model of the Italian palace of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—the style of architecture being know, technically, as the Italian, or Pailadian-Renaissance. The main frontage is broken by the projecting porticos of the Roman-Doric order, supported by a massive arcade, on the first story, which gives a very striking appearance to the grand entrance. There are, besides, two projecting wings, one at each side, all of which serve to break the great expanse of frontage, so as to lend a softened air and pleasing variety to the whole design.
THE ARCADE ENTRANCE
is ornamented by grotesques on the keystones, which contribute much to its beauty. The indented and molded jambs are nearly seven feet in depth, and the visitor cannot fail to immediately struck with the boldness and grace of the artistic conception.
THE MAIN HALL.
Entering beneath either of these fine arches which compose the arcade, the observer will find himself in the main hall, which is 25 feet in width, and is 18 feet in height, reaching the entire extent of the story, and stretching through the depth of the building, the north end being occupied by the grand stairway, which has one central flight of 8 feet in width, and two return flights, with a landing on the second story, with a width of 6 feet each. This stairway us very nearly completed, and is the principal establishment of the interior of the great hall, as the building being extended 10 feet to the rear to receive it, the entrance is lighted from three sides by handsome windows of stained glass, which will add much to the general effect.
Immediately within the arcade the grand vestibule is situated. It has the full width of the hall and depth of 60½ feet. The vestibule is divided from the hallway by fire-proof sliding-doors, 12 feet broad. All the walls and partitions are lined with iron; garnished by fluted columns, having foliated capitals. The floor is composed of encaustic tiles. It is intended that the vestibule shall be always open, placing upon the the iron sliding sliding doors the duty of closing the main building, thus giving to the arcade in front an additional character of depth and richness.
There are side entrances, leading directly across the main hall, on Dearborn street and the alley-way, each of these handsome by-ways being 8 feet wide.
Offices and rooms for the Grand Jury, Clerk of the Criminal Curt, State’s Attorney, and Sheriff are situated on both sides of the main hall, on the first floor, which is a most convenient arrangement for the public.
The Cook County Criminal Court
During the Haymarket Trial
By ascending the main stairway, the second story is attained, and the visitor, entering through any one of the four pairs of folding doors, is in the court-room, which extends through the first and second stories, having an extreme length of 94½ feet, a width if 45 and a height of 36 feet. It is lighted, on the Michigan street front, from the second and third-story windows. A passage way leads from behind the Judicial bench to the balcony beneath the portico which has been already described. A gallery for spectators is placed at either end of the room, being entered from a landing placed midway on the stairs which leads from the second to the third floor.
Beneath the galleries are corridors, about 9 feet high and 8 feet wide, which lead to the iron bridge that connect the Jail wards with the Court-House, so that prisoners when conveyed from their cells to the court-room, can be conducted through the corridor to the dock. This prevents all chance of escape, as prisoners cannot be seen by the spectators until the moment he is placed at the bar.
Rooms for the Judges, jurors, and witnesses, consulting rooms for lawyers, and other necessary apartments, occupy the east and west wings of the Court-House,—beyond the corridors,—a portion of the front on Michigan street being devoted to the same purposes.
THE GENERAL ASPECT
of the Court-House is unquestionably fine,—it even approaches grandeur, having a remarkable extent, and combining with this an internal arrangement not surpassed in any building of like character in the United States. The walls are decorated with pilasters and capitals of elaborate workmanship, having a complete entablature to correspond with the external design of the building. The ceiling is richly moulded with deeply-paneled and enriched copper-work. Then immense apartment has no internal columns, the ceiling being suspended from the great iron trusses of the roof, which have the extraordinary span of 65 feet, extending over the court-room and corridors, and bearing only upon the main walls. These latter have a thickness of 3 feet in the basement, and are, on the first and second stories, from 2¼ to 2 feet in thickness.
By ascending either of the iron stairs placed at the ends of the second-story corridor the midway landing between the second and third stories is reached. This landing leads to the public galleries already mentioned. From the landing the return flights to the third-story corridor are attained. The corridor leads to the east and west wings before mentioned, which are divided into three stories.
THE OTHER COURT-ROOM.
The reader will understand that the height of the court-room reaches to the roof. The eastern wing will be occupied by a secondary court-room, which can be used in case if emergency. The western wing is set apart for the janitors’ rooms and for spare offices.
The west building entered is that known as “the Residence,” which is intended to be occupied by the various county officials and the County Board of Commissioners until the new Court-House is erected. The original purpose of this building was to provide apartments for the Jail officials and lodgings for detained witnesses in criminal cases and for debtors’ accommodations. Provision was also made for hospital hands in the interests of prisoners afflicted with disease. This portion of the structure has a front broken and relieved by a main central and north and south projections. It is not so imposing in appearance as the Court-House front, but it is constructed in a manner suitable to the materials employed in its erection.
THE COUNTY CLERK.
The office for the County Clerk—an apartment having an area of 60 by 40 feet—and the County Court room, pro tem, also of ample proportions, are situated on either side of the main hallway, some 14 feet in width, which opens from the Dearborn-street entrance, and is reached by a flight of stairs. The apartments mentioned are suitably provided with rooms for Judges and jurors. The height from floor to ceiling is 14½ feet, and all the rooms are thoroughly lighted and supplied with ample natural ventilation. The Clerk’s office is provided with a commodious vault, and the counters are fit for the accommodation of any number of citizens. From one corner of this room a hand-elevator descends to the basement, or ascends, with passengers, as occasion may require.
IN THE BASEMENT
the architects have placed another fire-proof vault, for the safety of books and records not in immediate use. It is 36 feet long by 8 feet wide, and opens into a writing room which is 50 feet in length by 12 in breadth.
By ascending the main stairway leading from the basement-floor the second story is reached, and there the County-Treasurer’s office is, for the nonce, located,—occupying the north wing,—his quarters being of the same area as the Clerk’s office, which is situated beneath. This room is also provided with plenty of vault, gas, and water accommodations. The south wing of this floor is entirely occupied by the meeting room of the County Commissioners, and is 50 by 22 feet, with an altitude of 14 feet. It has two committee rooms, and an office for the Secretary.
The Jail building is, as already stated, entirely detached from the other structures, as they are from each other. This division is accomplished by means of a carriage-way, which is 20 feet wide, and by a coal-yard 65×45 feet, the former separating the prison from the residence, and the latter the jail from the Court-House.
From the alley-way a shorter carriage-drive, on the same width as the main one, opens on the court-yard. Passing through the latter space, by either of the drives mentioned, the visitor comes to the
which is reached by flight of iron stairs leading from the yard. This room opens on the north side, directly into the grand north wing, or
ADULT MALE WARD
of the prison, which, as being a type of the remaining wards, shall be first described. It is a plain, solid, and well-lighted apartment, 137¼ feet in length by 57 feet in width, and has a height of 36 feet to the ceiling. The cell-block, surrounded by corridors some 17 feet wide, rises from the centre of this immense room. The block comprises 136 stone cells, arranged in four tiers, each cell being 8 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 8 feet in height. Both sides of these cells, as well as the floors, are formed by single slabs of limestone, varying from 8 to 10 inches in thickness. The tiers are reached by means of iron galleries, extending all around the cell-block, at the level of every tier, and these are, in turn, reached by iron stairways, placed at the ends of the galleries, and ascending from the ground floor.
The ward is lighted by fourteen windows, each 5 feet wide and 14 feet in height. The sills are placed 20 feet above the floor of the corridors, the latter being at a level of about 5 feet above the sidewalks on the exterior, so that, should a prisoner succeed in breaking through his cell, he would have to climb 20 feet to the sill, and then, after cutting through iron gratings of the windows, risk a fall of 25½ feet to the sidewalk. The only other means of escape—if that can be called one—is by passing directly through the guard-room. On both sides of the latter apartment are placed bath-rooms, one set for male and then other for female prisoners. A corridor extends east and west along the south side of the bath section to the wings of the jail building. In the western wing are placed forty-eight stone cells set apart for the female captives, and, in all respects, arranged as in the male ward.
THE EASTERN WING
is divided into three floors. The first contains fourteen iron cells for juvenile male offenders, while the cells on second and third floors are set apart and padded for the reception of insane persons of both sexes. The guar-room is provided with an elevator, so that a prisoner, in entering the room, can be placed on the landing and transported to the bath-rooms, where the scrubbing and searching process can be handily performed. The prisoners’ clothing can be sent to the laundry and drying-room for reformation in the way of cleanliness.
is placed in the east wing basement, and is quite extensive, having an area of 40×20 feet, and altitude of 10 feet. It opens in the laundry, and the latter opens in the drying-room, so that all household facilities are conveniently arranged. A large food-elevator is placed beneath the male ward. It is worked by steam, and conveys the prison provender to the different tiers of cells.
is divided into a labyrinth of vaults, resembling catacombs, arranged so as to give easy access to sewerage, gas, and other accommodations of the building, and also to give sufficient ventilation for the closets, which are numerous and well arranged.
This system of ventilation deserves a special paragraph. The several lines of soil-pipe which extend through the cell-tiers are connected in the basement, or rather in the vaults, by a 14-inch pipe—laid horizontally. This pipe in turn opens into four large ventilating shafts, which extend through the main central hall to the attic, and thence to the outer atmosphere. These shafts are heated at the bottom by a series of steam-coils, thus creating a powerful upward current of air through the attic, and, as this current can only be supplied the soil-pipe, the architects hold that the foul air, as fast as generated, is taken downward and upward through the roof. In addition to the foregoing, a series of ventilation flues open into every cell, and also into every apartment throughout the structure. From the cells and rooms they lead to the attic, carrying off any impure air generated by the prisoners.
The Jail is heated in an admirable manner, immense steam-coils being placed beneath the openings in the corridor floors. This system is known as that of indirect radiation. To explain this principle more fully, it will be necessary to review the arrangement of the boiler-room, situated in the basement of the Court-House building. The first boiler-room contains five boilers of thirty horse-power each. The engine room is supplied with one engine of the same horse-power as the boilers, and supplied with two steam pumps. The fan-room is next the one last mentioned, and contains a double ten-foot fan, opening into a tunnel nine feet wide by six feet in height. This tunnel extends through the building, under and across the massive walls of the structure to the divers stacks of steam coils, which supply the warming of the rooms above. The building has been successfully heated by half the actual working-power of the apparatus, without the aid of a fan, which the architects have always held, will be necessary only to cool the several apartment in summer by driving currents of cool air through the tunnel into the upper rooms.
The Court-House and Jail buildings are entirely fire-proof, the floors and partitions being laid with rolled-iron beams and Johnson’s patent fire-clay tiles. The roofs are constructed of the same materials.
The architects have succeeded in effecting a creditable saving in the construction of the edifice, or series of edifices. The County and City Building Committees also aided in this economy, and deserve some praise for their virtue in the matter. The difference between the original estimate of the talented architects, Messrs. Armstrong and Egan, and the actual cost of the building, is nearly $50,000,—a considerable gain to an not over plethoric exchequer.
The following is a statement of the sub-contracts:
Cut-stone, W. C. Deakman, contractor, $117,728
Masonry, Plastering, and Fire-proof Work, M. B. Bailey, contractor, $128,000
Heating and Ventilating, Boyd & Baftin, contractors, $34,000
Plumbing and Gas-fitting, same firm, $10,000
Iron-work, Hennessey Brothers, $26,500
Painting and Glazing, Thomas Nelson, $5,980
Office Furniture, Sweeney Brothers, $14,257
Estimate for paving and grading the the court-yard, etc., and for gas-fittings, $10,000
Miscellaneous matters necessary for the entire completion of the building will swell the aggregate cost to $448,621,—the architects estimate at the outset being $518,350,—excluding, of course, furniture and gas-fixtures. The extras will swell the gross expense of the edifice to about $537,000, full $50,000 less than what the cost would have been had not rigid economy been practiced.
The building was superintended by Mr. William Gleason, who has had long experience with building, but the general supervision was confined to the architects.
Chicago will soon be in a position to place her county officers in something like civilized quarters, for the east wing of the old Court-House is fit only for the undisputed partnership of the rats and owls.
The entire building will be ready for occupancy on the 1st of May. The county officers will move into the residence building, as before stated, on the 20th inst.
The Cook County Criminal Court
Chicago Tribune, March 16, 1892
LEFT: Proposed Cook County Court-House showing two additional stories
RIGHT: New Cook County Court-House design which was chosen (Inland Architect, March 1893).
Chicago Tribune, January 24, 1936
Demolition of the old county jail and Criminal Courts building at Dearborn and Austin avenue will be completed by March 15 by WPA crews. Thus will pass from existence the twin jail and courthouse structure which was the scene of many sensational trials and hangings. It was the scene, too of many scandals which kept the newspapers continuously furnished with front page material.
The 60 year old courthouse and jail was the starting point of many political careers, one of which took Charles S. Deneed to the governor’s chair and the United States senate. In contrast it was the end of many political careers of the men who became involved in some of the scandals which emanated from the “hall of justice” for Cook county.
Abandoned in 1929.
The old courthouse and jail was abandoned on April Fools’ day, 1929, for the present $7,500,000 building on the southwest side of the city at 26th and California avenue. The old one was used for a time as a shelter for homeless victims of the depression. It was talked of because of its central location as a likely spot for use of various public bodies, but these projects were all abandoned.
The job of wrecking was started two years ago by CWA workmen. Later Illinois Emergency Relief crews took up the task, but little was done by this group. Recently 24 WPA men again started the task, The cost is estimated at $20,000.
The cell blocks in the older part of the building, which fronts on Illinois street, are made of Joliet stone, valuable for construction purposes. This is removed carefully by derricks and is being hauled in city trucks to a storage lot where it will be saved for use on city construction projects. The steel from the jail is being cut up and sold for scrap.
100 Executed There.
The old jail was the scene of more than 100 executions, most of which were by hanging. The electric chair became the official means of execution in 1927 and four men died in it before the building was abandoned. The first two were Anthony Greco and Charles Walz. The prison chaplain, Father Earnest, who had walked to the scaffold with many condemned men, was endangered when, in the preoccupation of prayer, he placed his hand on Greco’s bare shoulder an instant before the current was turned on. Guards saved him.
One of the memorable executions at the jail was that of the anarchists who were hanged after the Haymarket riots. The four, Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel and Adolph Fisher went to their deaths on Nov. 11, 1887.
THE CHICAGO ANARCHISTS,—SCENES AND INCIDENTS OF THE EXECUTION OF SPIES, PARSONS, ENGEL, AND FISHER.
1.—Cook County Jail (Dearborn Ave. and Illinois St. Front; 2.—The court yard—entrance to the Jail on the right; 3.—Illinois Street front.
Nov. 20, 1887
Car Barn Bandits Hanged.
In 1904 a triple execution claimed the attention of the nation. The notorious car barn bandits who had killed at least 20 men were paying for their crimes. These three, Peter Niedermeyer, Gustav Marx and Harvey Van Dine, died on April 22. Niedermmeyer, sneering and surly until the last minute, suddenly balked when his time came. Guards tied him to a cane bottomed chair and dropped him through the trap. He died swinging grotesquely in the chair.
On Feb. 23, 1906, Johann Hoch, slayer of several women, and known as “the Chicago Bluebeard,” was hanged. On Feb. 15, 1918, Edward T. (Ammunition) Wheed and Harry Lindrum, who had killed during robberies, were hanged on a double scaffold. Their executions, the first in three years, were hailed by leading Chicagoans as an indication that “law and order have returned.”
Underworld “Cutie” Dies.
On Dec. 6 of that year Lloyd Bopp, aq vicious young bandit who had killed Policeman Herman Malow of Oak Park, died on the scaffold. The only break in his composure was when Judge Joseph B. Sabath burst into tears at the moment of passing sentence and Bopp also wept. The next year, on June 27, Earl Dear, “the cutie of the underworld,” paid the penalty for killing a chauffeur during an attempted auto theft.
Another execution the city applauded was that of Thomas Fitzgerald, the wanton moron who murdered 6 year old Janet Wilkinson in the cellar of a building on East Superior street., He died on Oct. 17, 1919.
10 Hanged in 1921.
Law and order had returned in a big way in the year 1921, if executions can be taken as a barometer. There were 10. Among them were Carl Wanderer, who killed his wife and a ragged stranger, upon whom he had hoped to pin the crime, and Harry H. Ward, who slew H. B. Rhodes, a wealthy south side merchant when Rhodes resisted a holdup. Also hanged that year were Sam Cardinella, bandit gang leader, and two of his henchmen, Sam Ferrara and Joe Coistanzo. It was a triple execution.
The year following, Harvey W. Church was hanged for the murder of two automobile salesmen. He was another who fell through the trap seated in a chair. Fr a month before—and during—the execution, Church was in a stupor caused, physicians said, by his horror of death.
The old jail because of the large number of prisoners crowded into its dingy cells produced many scandals, but one eleven year period was practically free from criticism. This was during the wardenship of Will T. Davies, a cold individual who held his prisoners in strict check. The escapes of Bopp and Dear marred his otherwise spotless record, but they were recaptured.
Chicago Daily New Almanac and Yearbook for 1923
Warden Goes to Jail.
The death of Davies in 1920 was followed by a series of major scandals, which even brought about the imprisonment of one warden, and the then sheriff, Peter M. Hoffman, Terry Drugan and Frank Lake, beer barons of the prohibition days, were in the jail during 1925, awaiting trial by the government. It was discovered that through bribery the prison walls failed to keep them inside and that they roamed the city at will and enjoyed its hilarious night life.
Wesley H. Westbrook, for 27 years a police captain with a reputation for discipline and honesty, was the warden. He was sentenced to four months in jail and Hoffman, his superior, to one month. Westbrook has been put in charge of the jail especially to end the scandals.
Capt. George Weilding, another police official known fir his insistence on discipline, was another whose downfall was brought by jail scandals. He resigned under fire during the regime of the late Sheriff Charles Peters. He was in charge of the jail at the time when Russell Scott, bandit killer, tried to escape the hangman’s noose by having his brother, Robert Scott, execute a fake affidavit in the jail. The affidavit was intended to take the blame for the murder of a loop druggist from Russell to Robert Scott.
Tommy O’Connor’s Escape.
Sheriff Peters, who for years was an assistant sheriff under many administrations, was in charge of the jail when Tommy O’Connor, police killer, made his sensational escape a week before the day set for his execution. O’Connor has never been recaptured of officially reported dead.
One of the most amusing incidents of the old days was the conduct of Frank McErlane, one time gang chief, when he was brought into Judge John P. McGoorty’s Criminal court. He made faces at the judge and an investigation was started. It disclosed that McErlane was one of many prisoners receiving liquor in his cell, even though prohibition was in effect.
Another major scandal was the attempt by Henry (Midget) Fernekes, who committed suicide recently, to blow up the jail. The same trick had been tried by Joe (Big Joe) Moran, safe blower.
The jail scandals were stopped for several years when Edward J. Fogarty was brought from the Michigan City penitentiary, where he was warden, and put in charge of the jail by former Sherif Charles Graydon. Fogarty, after ruling the jail with an iron hand for several years and keeping the institution clean, committed suicide.
The McSwiggin Tragedy.
The old courthouse was a stepping stone to success for many young lawyers, who began as assistant state’s attorneys and were later elected to judgeships or attained high places in the legal profession.
One promising career, however, was cut short when William McSwiggin, then considered one of the best prosecutors, was shot to death while riding in an automobile with several companions known to the underworld.
The building was officially closed when probably its last tragedy occurred. Oswald Prosser, an assistant bailiff, a member of a cleanup crew, walked into an open elevator shaft and fell to his death.
The Cook County Criminal Court
Dearborn and Michigan (Hubbard) Streets
Robinson Fire Map 1886
Volume 3, Plate 8