May 18

The Brickhouse Bighouse

It took only 4 years of political establishment before a prison was built in the Dakota Territory, and part of it stands to this day.  The old brick walls are gone, and much of the Dakota Territory Prison is gone, but a piece of history remains at the North Dakota State Penitentiary.  The brickhouse, a corner of the penitentiary stands lit up against the night sky.  The Dakota Territory Prison stood here for 5 more years before there was a state of North Dakota.  Until then, from Yankton SD to Williston ND prisoners in the “federal” system were housed here.

When I took this shot, I was a bit nervous, fearful that some guard would think I’m casing the joint to facilitate a breakout.  No one questioned me. Isn’t that the way things are in North Dakota, trusting, non-invasive.  There was a changing of the guard while I was shooting this, and some prison personnel left while I was outside. When they drove by, they waved.  Friendly bunch, those prison guards.


I imagined inside there were a more than a few men who would have been extremely envious of me, not only because I was on the outside and they weren’t but because I’d made a stop at the local ice cream shop before I headed out to the pen.   Yeah, I’d rather be working behind the counter at DQ than housed behind the razor wire at the pen, but frankly I think I had it best free to order a blizzard, eat it and take photos of a piece of North Dakota history.

You know, that reminds me. Now that I think about it, I remember seeing small town jails across the state in little towns that are no longer used. I bet that would make a fun photo collage.  In fact, I’ll hafta go over to Regan where I know there’s a boarded up jail house.  Can you tell me if you know of one in your neck of the woods?

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