Old New-Gate Prison & Copper Mine, East Granby

Overview

Investigate the history and natural history of this underground copper mine and ruins of the oldest surviving state prison in America. Chartered in 1705, the copper mine was the first in the North American colonies and operated for nearly 70 years. The colony of Connecticut purchased the mine in 1773 to create a workhouse and prison for convicted criminals that operated for over 50 years. The site later became a privately owned tourist attraction with a popular dance hall, a World War I tank and even a zoo. Today, the dank mine tunnels, menacing perimeter walls and hulking prison ruins still convey an environment of confinement and awe. 


Historical Significance

The museum’s 45-acre hillside site with breathtaking views includes the two-acre prison yard enclosed by a 12 foot-tall masonry perimeter wall. Inside the wall is the entrance to the underground copper mine and the prison yard, with its renovated two-story Guardhouse and the standing ruins of four other prison buildings. Named after the famous prison in London, Connecticut’s New-Gate Prison held more than 800 prisoners over the years, including four women and Tory prisoners sent by George Washington during the American Revolution. Located across the street from the prison, Viets Tavern (currently closed) is the unrestored, mid-1700s home of first prison warden Capt. John Viets and his wife Lois.

 

The State of Connecticut re-acquired the site in 1968, opening it to the public as a history museum. It is now a National Historic Landmark and State Archaeological Preserve.

 

You can explore these features on the site:

  • Mine Tunnels — Descend the long staircase in the prison yard to explore the damp, perpetually 55-degree underground tunnels of the copper mine that later held prisoners. Your visit will take you 75 feet below the ground! Please note that appropriate footwear must be worn in the mine. At present time, the mine is not handicapped accessible. Take a virtual tour of the copper mine.
  • Prison Yard:
    • Guardhouse — Learn about the history of this renovated two-story brick building from the prison era to its later dance hall days.
    • Prison Ruins — Explore the masonry ruins of the two-story Chapel, two-story Nail Shop, two-story Workshop and four-story Cell Block.
  • Gift Shop — Browse a wide selection of gifts and souvenirs for adults and children.

Events

2019


May 19 (Sunday) 10:00-4:30
State Museum Sunday
Free admission for Connecticut residents at any of the four State Museums on the third Sunday of the month.

June 8 (Saturday) 10:00-4:30
Connecticut Open House Day
Free admission! Support Connecticut tourism by joining us on June 8th! Tours and self-guided exploration will be available as well as a concert from the first state troubadour, Tom Callinan. Concert begins at 1 pm.

 

June 16 (Sunday) 10:00-4:30
State Museum Sunday
Free admission for Connecticut residents at any of the four State Museums on the third Sunday of the month.

June 21 (Friday) 5-8 pm
Make Music Day
Bring a blanket, chairs, and a picnic to enjoy an evening of free outdoor musical performances as we take part in this global celebration of music on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Check the event listing on the museum’s Facebook page for the latest details on the performance schedule and list of food trucks. The event is free.

June 30 (Sunday) 1:00 pm & 2:30 pm
Tales from the Dungeon: Life at Newgate
Experience a glimpse of prison life in 1825. Learn about key historical figures from New-Gate’s past in a fun and engaging play performed by the Theatre Guild of Simsbury. This 30-minute show is appropriate for all ages and will begin at 1:00 and again at 2:30. Free with Admission.

July 21 (Sunday) 10:00-4:30
State Museum Sunday / Mineral Show
Free admission for Connecticut residents at any of the four State Museums on the third Sunday of the month. The New-Gate copper mine has attracted people to the site since 1705. Celebrate New-Gate’s deep connection to geology with a mineral show. Mineral dealers from across New England will be showcasing and selling their collections inside the prison yard.

July 28 (Sunday) 1:00 pm & 2:30 pm
Tales from the Dungeon: Life at Newgate
Experience a glimpse of prison life in 1825. Learn about key historical figures from New-Gate’s past in a fun and engaging play performed by the Theatre Guild of Simsbury. This 30-minute show is appropriate for all ages and will begin at 1:00 and again at 2:30. Free with Admission.

August 3-4 (Saturday-Sunday) 10:00-4:30
One Weekend, Two Museums
Old New-Gate and the Connecticut Trolley Museum (East Windsor) are teaming up for a weekend. Purchase admission to one museum and get the other museum free. Offer is only valid with proof of visitation.

August 10 (Saturday) Time TBD
Shoe-Making Demonstration & Hands-on Activity
New-Gate prisoners made shoes as a business to support the cost of running the Prison. Learn how shoes were made at New-Gate, with a costumed demonstration by Dennis Picard. Participants will even have a chance to try their hand at driving pegs into sole-weight leather, simulating the construction method used by prisoners. Free with Admission.

August 11 (Sunday) 1:00 pm & 2:30 pm
Tales from the Dungeon: Life at Newgate
Experience a glimpse of prison life in 1825. Learn about key historical figures from New-Gate’s past in a fun and engaging play performed by the Theatre Guild of Simsbury. This 30-minute show is appropriate for all ages and will begin at 1:00 and again at 2:30. Free with Admission.

August 18 (Sunday) 10:00-4:30
State Museum Sunday
Free admission for Connecticut residents at any of the four State Museums on the third Sunday of the month.

August 25 (Sunday) 1:00 pm & 2:30 pm
Tales from the Dungeon: Life at Newgate
Experience a glimpse of prison life in 1825. Learn about key historical figures from New-Gate’s past in a fun and engaging play performed by the Theatre Guild of Simsbury. This 30-minute show is appropriate for all ages and will begin at 1:00 and again at 2:30. Free with Admission.

 

Address

115 Newgate Road
East Granby, CT 06026

Free parking

Mailing address: P.O. Box 230, East Granby, CT 06026

Hours

Please note that hours are subject to change at Old New-Gate Prison due to weather and safety concerns.  Please visit our Facebook page for updated information, or call the museum at (860) 653-3563.

May-October:
Thursday-Monday, 10am - 4:30pm (last tickets sold at 4pm) 

Admission

  • Adults: $8
  • Seniors (60 and older): $6
  • Youth (6-17) / Students: $5
  • Child (5 and under): Free
  • Groups: $6 per person (for 10 or more people by appointment)
  • School/Youth Groups: $2 per person (by appointment)

As a Blue Star Museum, we offer free admission to active-duty military personnel and their families.

Plan Your Visit

Learn more about the museum and the surrounding area at CTvisit.com.

Contact

Morgan Bengel, Museum Assistant

newgate.museum@ct.gov, 860-653-3563

Related Resources

Follow the museum on Facebook

Take an aerial tour of Old New-Gate Prison & Copper Mine

Take a virtual tour of the copper mine

Become a Volunteer

Schedule photography, filming, or other special events at the museum

Old New-Gate Prisoner List

Transcript of 1800 Connecticut Courant escape attempt article

Transcript of 1801 escape attempt report by prison keeper Thomas Shelden

Transcript of 1815 Connecticut Courant editorial

Transcript of 1819 Connecticut Courant reward notice for escaped convicts