Grant Hall and the Fate of Eight Conspirators

canadafreepress.com | 8/10/2017 | Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh
Grant Hall is located on the green and perfectly manicured grounds of Ft. McNair, near the banks of the Anacostia River and the Washington Channel of the Potomac River.

Building 20, Grant Hall, was part of the Federal Penitentiary that was built on this site in 1829. It was designed by Charles Bulfinch, the same architect who designed the Capitol. In 1831, a women’s ward was added to accommodate female prisoners. The Old Penitentiary was built on the Arsenal Grounds, formerly enclosed by a high brick wall.

Population - Inmates - Prison - Prisoners - Skills

The population of 200 inmates of the federal prison grew to 322 during 1862. Prisoners were taught useful skills such as shoemaking hence the existence of a shoe factory.

The original larger building was used during the Civil War to keep Confederate prisoners. After the assassination, the conspirators were housed on the third floor cell block; Harper Weekly published a drawing of the exact location.

Penitentiary - Part - Building - Wing - Trial

The penitentiary was eventually torn down but one part of the building was spared, the wing where the trial took place. The courtroom was used through the 1990s for various things such as enlisted members quarters, officers’ quarters, and five apartments, until 1996 when the Army had plans to tear it down.

Dr. Hans Binnendijk, professor and vice president for research and applied learning at National Defense University, wrote to his congressman and made the case that Grant Hall could not be torn down as it is a national treasure. The funding was raised to restore the building, a process which took three years, from 2009 to 2012. During restoration, Robert Redford’s 2010 movie “Conspirators” could not be filmed in the building, but he came to measure the room and loaned props from the film to the museum.

Washington - Post - Dr - Binnendijk - Place

As quoted in the Washington Post, Dr. Binnendijk said, “This was a place where, in...
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