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 & Exhibits

2018

June 9 (Saturday) 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Open House Day
Join us for a sneak peek inside the prison walls. Free admission all day! Tour guides will be stationed to talk with visitors and answer questions. Unfortunately, we cannot allow mine access at this time.

July 14 (Saturday) 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Opening Day
Celebrate the re-opening of Old New-Gate Prison & Copper Mine. Enjoy hands-on activities, demonstrations, the premier of Tales from the Dungeon and so much more. The prison yard and mine will be available for exploration. Admission is $6 and free for children 12 and younger.

July 15 (Sunday) 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Free Admission for Connecticut Residents

July 21 (Saturday) 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Shoemaking 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.

July 28 (Saturday) 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Layers of Old New-Gate
Uncover what’s underneath New-Gate through archaeology and geology. Engage with professional archaeologists, geologists and mineral collectors from local mineral clubs to learn more about the history and natural history of New-Gate. Educational demonstrations and hands-on activities for all ages!

August 12 (Sunday) 1:00 and 2:30 p.m.
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 p.m. Free with admission.

August 18 (Saturday) 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Blacksmith Demonstration
Join us to welcome Lance Kozikowski (one of the few tinsmiths in Connecticut) to Old New-Gate. Learn how tinsmithing was done in the 18th and 19th century through Lance’s costumed demonstration. Free with admission.

August 19 (Sunday) 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Free admission for Connecticut residents

August 25 (Saturday) 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Mineral Show
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.

August 26 (Sunday) 1:00 and 2:30 p.m.
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.

September 8 (Saturday) 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. 
Bat Day: Appreciating the Current Residents of Old New-Gate
Learn about New-Gate’s beloved bats as we team up with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to promote bat conservation. Engage with wildlife biologists to learn about how cool bats really are and how you can help support these important and amazing creatures. Demonstrations and hand-on activities for all ages.

September 16 (Sunday) 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Free admission for Connecticut residents

September 29 (Saturday) 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Escape from Newgate
Step into history and experience New-Gate prison come alive. Reenactors from the Fifth Connecticut Regiment will be recreating what prison life looked like at New-Gate. Join us for this exciting weekend, and make sure to watch out for escaping prisoners! (Fee)

October 21 (Sunday) 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Free admission for Connecticut residents

October 26 (Friday) 5:00 - 8:00 p.m.
October 27 (Saturday) 4:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Halloween at Old New-Gate
Celebrate Halloween in Connecticut’s oldest prison! More information to come. (Fee)
NOTE: The museum will be closed on October 26 & 27 until the Halloween festivities begin!

Address

115 Newgate Road
East Granby, CT 06026

Free parking

Mailing address: P.O. Box 254, East Granby, CT 06026

Hours

May-October:

  • Friday, 1:00-5:00
  • Saturday-Sunday, 10:00-5:00
  • Mon. 10:00-1:00

Admission

  • Ages 13 & older: $6
  • Ages 12 & younger: free
  • Groups: $5 per person for 10 or more people by appointment
  • School 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