Vol. II No. 05 3/1/2021
Stockbridge History – The Lock Up
by Rick Wilcox
Town residents of a certain age may remember the Youth Building on Shamrock Street. The building was home to many events including scouting and after school programs. Most might not recall that it was also the site of the first highway garage. The land was taken by the town c. 1876 to be allocated for a lockup.
To see how far reaching the impact of the Great Panic of 1873 was, one only had to turn to the town reports of that decade in Stockbridge. April 1874 Town Meeting, article 10: "to see what action the town will take in relation to locating, building, and maintaining a lockup." The wheels of government do at times turn slowly. April 5, 1875, Annual Meeting, "article 11, To see about building a lockup."
Like other improvements in the field of criminal justice, necessity is a great motivator, and Stockbridge was no exception. In the town report of April 1, 1875, Pauper Expenses: "there has been paid for Support of the Poor the sum of $1,592.09. Of this $414.15 was paid to aid transient poor, $57.00 of which was last years bill, leaving $357.15 paid on account of tramps this year. The tramp nuisance is getting to be unendurable and we hope the town will take measures to get the benefit of the new law just passed by the legislature, which authorizes towns to compel the tramps to do a certain amount of work."
The town report of 1877, Tramps: The number of tramps lodged has been 449 at an expense of $180.35 as follows: Dennis Morissey $111.25; J.B. Hull $1040 coal for lockup; George Seymour $18.81 refreshments; T.B. Patterson $1.75 work; C.L. Lynch $1.50 keeping tramps; C.L. Lynch $4.50 wood for lockup; A. Hollenbeck $3.00 work at lockup; C.H. Willis $27.64 coal for lockup; Thomas Kincherly $1.50 keeping tramps. In the 1879 Town Report the number of tramps was down to 149 at an expense of $73.36.
The "new" brick Dutch Revival style Town Office of 1884, at 34 Main Street, would become home to the next lockup. At a September 17, 1902 Town meeting it was ordered to construct suitable quarters on town property and dispose of the present lockup building. The lockup of fine Stockbridge limestone was dismantled. Two cells were placed in the basement of the new Town Offices. In 1963 new cells, made famous by Arlo Guthrie, were placed in the newly renovated Town Hall.
One of our lock ups.