In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Thomaston: The Town that Went to Sea

Prison is built - 1823 to 1824

Etching of Maine State Prison, Thomaston, Maine 1855
Etching of Maine State Prison, Thomaston, Maine 1855Item Contributed by
Thomaston Historical Society

The building was contracted for $12,000, but a report submitted by Attorney General Erastus Foote in 1829 lists a cost for the original prison as $46,553.16. This sum included the wharf on the George's River and loading gondola for granite. Fifty builders and two lighters (unpowered barges used to transfer cargo under tow) for the transport of granite from St. George were employed and the walls were constructed by November 24th, 1823.

A hospital, guards’ quarters and warden’s residence were located in the center portion of the architecture with two wings extending off each side for the housing of prisoners. Each wing consisted of two rows of cells, each cubicle about 4.5’ x almost 9’ and about 10’ deep, exposed to the elements below ground level. After working in the quarries all day, prisoners would descend by ladders into their deep cells at night, the two-foot openings covered with iron grates. A wooden roof with sliding doors was erected above the top of the cells, creating an open room about 10-12’ high. A 16’ high wooden fence surrounded the entire complex. Guards were to patrol along a plank walk constructed outside the fence.

By June 1824, the facility was completed, and fourteen prisoners from a facility in Charlestown, MA were transported by boat up the George's River to Thomaston, where they joined about 21 others sent by Maine judges to the new prison. All transfer of prisoners was under the supervision of Dr. Daniel Rose, who had been appointed the first State Prison Warden.

Aerial view of the Maine State Prison, Thomaston, Maine  c. 1980s
Aerial view of the Maine State Prison, Thomaston, Maine c. 1980sItem Contributed by
Thomaston Historical Society

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