Richmond Dispatch, 5/11/1889

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From the Richmond Dispatch, 5/11/1889

The Last Brick to Leave Richmond Within a Month – What Chicago People Think.

The work of tearing down the old Libby Prison building and removing its material to Chicago progresses rapidly.

Messrs. Shanks & Barrett commenced tearing the roof off the structure the 17th of April, and operations looking to the demolition of the old warehouse have been pushed forward as rapidly as could be consistently done.

Much more than half the building has been torn down, and considerably more than half the material has been transported to Chicago. The garret and third and fourth stories have been moved, leaving here now only the first and second floors and the foundation walls. The roof and other heavy timbers which had to be handled by derricks having been loaded on cars and shipped, the remainder of the material, chiefly brick, stone, beams, and mortar, can be handled with great ease, and even greater dispatch can be made in future than formerly.


The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company, which has the contract for hauling the stuff to its western home, keeps box-cars on the York-River side track near the building, and as soon as a car-load is ready for shipment the car is sealed, switched to a regular freight train, and borne on its way. Only box-cars are used for the purpose.

Mr. J. W. Woodard, of the firm of Woodard & Crilly, who have the contract for tearing down the building, transporting the material, and re-erecting the prison in Chicago, has been here superintending the operations at this end of the line. He has been in Chicago for the last few days, but will be back here in a day or two. Mr. Hallowel, the Washington architect who drew diagrams of the original structure, by which it is to be reproduced, is also looking after the work. Most of the parts of the prison have been so marked that there will be little difficulty in putting them together in proper shape.


The indications are that the last remnant of Libby Prison will have been taken away from Richmond by the 1st of June, certainly by the 10th proximo. At any rate, unless there is some unexpected delay, the place where stood the most memorable and historic Confederate prison that ever existed will soon be a barren piece of ground, which, unless converted to a public park, will be put on the market as a site for a manufacturing establishment of some character.

As soon as the foundation material reaches Chicago the re-erection will begin and it is expected that the war museum will be complete and ready to be formally opened by September or October.


The following is from the Chicago Tribune:

CHICAGO, May 3. – Editor Tribune: I happened to be an unnoticed listener to a conversation going on in the Palmer House rotunda last evening. I send you the words of one of the speakers.                                  R. D.

“The day the Libby-Prison show is opened I cease to buy goods in Chicago.”

The above sentence was uttered last Thursday evening by a prominent southern dealer in agricultural implements, and he added:
“I tell you, sir, the bringing of Libby Prison to Chicago as a show will cost her people millions of dollars in the loss of southern trade. The war is over, and any city that tries to keep alive the hatred engendered by it makes a wide mistake. All over the South this is the feeling. The trade Chicago loses will go to New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.”

[What has Chicago got to do with this Libby Prison show? Its purchase and removal here is a purely personal speculation. Mayor Creiger has no authority to prevent the reconstruction of the building here, and probably would not if he could. The people of Chicago have no interest in the old Richmond warehouse. It never held any Chicago or Illinois prisoners, or if any, very few. The speculation will in all probability be a financial failure, but that is the speculators’ own affair. The threat to cut off millions of southern trade is bosh. Southerners will buy and sell where they can get the best bargains regardless of “Libby Prisons” or who owns them. The people of Chicago are not the sort to be moved from the even tenor of their ways by any such foolish talk, the only effect of which would be to advertise the Libby-Prison building and excite the curiosity of people to go and see what it looks like. Probably it is the speculators who own it who are doing the sort of talking our correspondent overheard. – Editor Tribune.]

The Tribune is mistaken. The Libby Prison show will hurt Chicago’s trade; but what is of far more consequence, it will keep alive memories that had far better to be buried, and it will stimulate the manufacture of “prison-stories” that have no foundation in fact, but which will be powerful agents in keeping open “the war feeling” – i. e., the hatred of the North and West for the South. General Grant stopped the exchanging of prisoners. The tedium and suffering of prison life the Confederates could not avert; but they fed their prisoners just as well and just as bountifully as they did their own troops in the field.

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