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Sing Sing Prison Could Become NY Tourist Draw

Tue Jan 4,10:08 AM ET Oddly Enough - Reuters


By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - One of America's most notorious prisons, Sing Sing, could do more than lock up dangerous criminals, local officials say.


AP Photo



The institution that saw the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg as spies could become a lucrative tourist attraction, according to Westchester County, N.Y., officials.


Local officials are asking the state's help in funding the start-up of a museum in the prison's old power house, which would be connected by tunnel to an original cell block no longer in use, said Westchester County Planning Commissioner Jerry Mulligan on Monday.


Studies show a museum at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility could lure 150,000 visitors a year, he said, at a start-up cost of about $5 million.


"It's a little bit eerie, but it's just this fascination people have," said Mulligan.


The dark, imposing prison, which today holds about 1,745 inmates, overlooks the Hudson River in Ossining, N.Y., about 30 miles north of New York City.


The saying "up the river" refers to being shipped north to Sing Sing from New York. Inside, the massive stone walls and dim halls made Sing Sing a popular setting for prison movies, including "Angels with Dirty Faces" with James Cagney in 1938.


Bank robber Willie Sutton escaped from Sing Sing in 1932. Hundreds of inmates were executed in the electric chair "Old Sparky" there, including the Rosenbergs in 1953.


Inmates built the original cell block in 1825 and inmates today might be involved in the museum, Mulligan said. However, much of the prison population is held in maximum security.


"That could be an issue," Mulligan said.


Turning the prison into a tourist attraction would be a marked change from days when the town changed its name to Ossining from Sing Sing to distance itself from the prison, and local officials frowned on its public mention.


"It could be the Alcatraz of the east," Mulligan said, referring to the museum at the California prison, no longer in use. "This could trigger a whole wave of tourism."
 
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