Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Yuma...Round 2!

So we headed on back to Yuma and checked into the same hotel and ended up with the same room. Deja vu!

Barb had mentioned that they had toured the jail and found it worthwhile, so we thought we would check it out.

Hmmm...it really wasn't in use as a jail for that long! Through the dedicated efforts of the people of Yuma, the abandoned prison was turned into a museum with the cornerstone of the visitor center being laid in 1940.

Here is an old picture showing its location on the Colorado River. The first seven inmates were incarcerated on July 1, 1876 and were locked into the brand new cells which they had built themselves!

This looks like a scene from Keystone Kops!

The entrance through the wall is called a Sallyport which was built to enclose a wagon when the gates at either end were closed.

A mini version!

A model built to show the original expanse of the prison...

They had 3069 prisoners over years for the following crimes...

Most people served their full sentences...

What?? No dessert...now that's a crime!

One of the early comic books...

Many westerns were filmed at the prison and the front gates became a familiar scene...

I have no idea what the significance of these are, but it was an interesting step back in time...

Once the prison was no longer in use, the Yuma High School occupied these buildings between 1910 and 1914. High school athletic teams are still called the Yuma Criminals or the "Crims."

Empty cells provided free lodging for hobos riding freight trains in the 1920s and sheltered many families during the Great Depression. Townspeople then considered the abandoned site a source for free building materials and ended up destroying most of the prison walls. This is what remains...

Jim checking out the facts!

Electric chair? Nope! It's the barber...

Despite the horrendous heat in the summer and lack of plumbing facilities, the prison was humanely administered and was a model institution for its time. The only punishments were the "dark cell" for those who broke the prison rules and the "ball and chain" for those who tried to escape.

Once the door to the dark cell was closed, it was indeed dark!

Not bad enough that you were in the dark cell, but you were also inside a cage which was 5 ft high and 10 ft wide and you were chained to the floor. At one time, 14 prisoners were housed in the cell at the same time.

The only light was from a small airhole in the ceiling. I cannot imagine what this would have been like in the 120 degree heat with other prisoners and no plumbing. No wonder some people went directly from the dark cell into the lunatic asylums!

Corridor between the cells...

Schooling was available and many convicts learned to read and write in prison. The prison library...

Twelve cells were dug into the hillside in 1900 to relieve overcrowding and it was called the "new yard."

"I'm free!"

One of the few prisoners who successfully escaped...

Here's an effective method of punishment...the iron ring in the floor was used to not only chain the offending prisoner to the floor, but all of his cell mates. This wouldn't have gone over well!

A platform was built over the granite-walled 85,000 gallon water tank to reduce evaporation. A roof was added to it and it became the guard tower. After the prison closed, the tower served several other functions, including a defense lookout in WWII.

The water tank which was also built by the inmates.

The view from the lookout...

Part of the museum...

We dropped into the casino once (okay...maybe twice). We liked this one because it had a non-smoking room. At least you can breathe while you're losing!

The desert was blooming due to the unusual amount of rain they had experienced...

We really did enjoy our time in Yuma. Could we spend the winter there? I don't think so, but we would definitely go back. Goodbye to the lettuce fields...was great to have such fresh produce!

We're heading back to Las Vegas!

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