History of the Cincinnati Workhouse

Cincinnati Workhouse
The Cincinnati Workhouse, later operated by Hamilton County as County Correctional Institute (CCI), was originally built for the City of Cincinnati from 1867 to 1869. The design was actually much more like a state penitentiary than a county jail — a large, multi-storied central block flanked by lower, elongated wings. The roof rested on cast iron and steel trusses supported by exterior bearing walls and underlaid by wood planking. Walls were red brick with buttresses and limestone trim and sashing, and windows were metal framed paned glass. The grounds ranged 6 acres with about half of that occupied by buildings.

On July 21st, 1865, the city council of Cincinnati passed a resolution calling for the planning of a new city workhouse. Land in Camp Washington (a local suburb) was purchased at a cost of $50,000 and Anderson and Hannaford were contracted to design the main building. The buildings were opened on November 17, 1869 and completed in January 1870. In early 1870, convicts in the facility made shoes for the J.P. Hearne Co., castings for the Miles Greenwood Co, and erected new workshops for other manufactures. The first female prisoners incarcerated at the Workhouse were committed on December 1st, 1869 and by June of 1870 1567 prisoners occupied the facility. Of these, 900 served sentences for drunkenness and disorderly conduct.

• Main wing, 360 male cells and 240 female cells
• Chapel, 65′ x 68′ x 30′, seated 500-600 prisoners
• Large workshop, built 1873, 60′ x 200′
• Male workshop, built 1871, 61′ x 283′
• Male reception building, 26′ x 87′
• Female reception building, 26′ x 76′
• Brick stable & wagon house (built by John Rothan & Sons for $45,813)

The Workhouse continued to be used well into the 20th century. Movies such as “Lock-Up” starring Sylvester Stallone found the Workhouse to be an excellent location for filming prison scenes. Finally, after deterioration and neglect, this monument to history was condemned and demolished toward the end of the 20th century, a passing in history. Today, the door of a jail cell, the yard bell, and a prisoner registry can be seen at the Hamilton County Justice Center, the final remnants of a time gone by.