East Greenwich Historic Preservation Society

Our Resident Prisoners

 
Sculpture of prisoner from outside of the Old Kent County Jail.
 
A detailed description of the Kent County Jail, by Henry E. Turner in Reminiscences of East Greenwich, prompted Marion Helwig (former President of the EGHPS) to set out to restore the front facade which he described: “Among the time-honored institutions of this ancient burgh, and one which attracts very early notice by the children to the village, is the Kent County Jail; and in my childhood and early youth it was a more marked and conspicuous object than now, it having two specimens of scripture [sic.] on its exterior front… I am not informed as to who the artist may have been, to whom we were indebted for the statues of the malefactors which adorn the front of the jail…These figures were images of wood, one supposed to represent a murderer, the other a robber. Both were ornamented with iron wristlets, and fetters, and chains, and were painted, the one black, the other white, and the jail itself was always yellow, so that the characteristic statuary, being placed on each side over the front entrance, stood out in bold relief as guardian angels of this harbor of refuge.”

For many years the Kent County Jail had two carved figures of folk art signage gracing the front of our building. The wood sculptures of shackled prisoners were removed well over a hundred years ago. One went missing, the other one ended up in the collection of the Rhode Island Historical Society. It took woodcarver Darren Cooney five years to complete replicas of the originals, from photographs and his imagination. The sculptures were installed during a ceremony on April 16th, 2016.
Sculpture of prisoner from outside of the Old Kent County Jail.