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During the legal appeals and amnesty campaign, the eight men convicted of murdering Matthias Degan remained imprisoned in the Cook County Jail, which was just north of the Cook County Criminal Court in the block defined by Michigan (now Hubbard), Dearborn, Illinois, and Clark Streets. The jail was completed in 1874, the same year as the courthouse, on the former site of the North Market Hall.
The first image, from the Sanborn Atlas of the City of Chicago, gives an excellent view of the block containing the courthouse and jail. One can see the jail, the courtyard between it and the Criminal Court, and the two gated wagon entrances to the courtyard, on the west to an alley and on the north to Illinois Street. (The area projecting into the courtyard from the west end of the section named "County Jail" was, according to newspaper diagrams at the time, the "Boys' Department," while the projection at the east end housed the "Women's Department." In these same diagrams the sections here labeled "Detention Criminal Court" and "Hospital" housed the "Insane Department.") The thin gray rectangles running north and south between the courthouse and the jail are metal gangways above the ground level, probably used to convey prisoners back and forth during legal proceedings.
The prisoners were kept were kept in cells in the section labeled "County Jail." In the center of each of its two stories was a row of back-to-back cells, half facing the north corridor, half the south. The anarchists spent most of their imprisonment on the second floor, facing south, along the south corridor. Parsons called his quarters "Bastille Cell No. 29." The gallows would be erected at the east end of the north corridor.
Most visitors would come through the courtyard to the Jailer's Office, located in the small rectangle marked 1B (i.e., one story) and containing the word "Windows," just behind the square marked "13." They would then speak to the prisoners through a wire mesh, referred to as "the cage" (see the next entry in this section for an image of this structure). Permission was sometimes granted to see the prisoners outside the cage, but this seems to have been limited to those officially serving in their defense.
The second image, from the November 12, 1887 issue of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, shows that the courthouse and jail were a center of curiosity—and a site to be carefully guarded—as the prisoners awaited their fate. Rumors abounded of threats against the judge, prosecutors, and jury members. There was talk that other anarchists were planning to storm the prison and set off more bombs all over Chicago. Visitors to the courthouse found armed police camped out by the third-story windows that overlooked the courtyard and jail.
In the week before the execution, the Citizens' Association turned over to the control of the police some of the same equipment they purchased following the 1877 railroad strike, including four hundred breech-loading Springfield rifles and twelve thousand rounds of cartridges. These were supplemented with a twelve-gauge shoulder-slung thirty-inch repeating "riot gun," capable of firing six shots in three seconds. The Commercial Club, the civic organization restricted to the top businessmen in the city, had also contributed funds to arm and equip the national guard, which remained on alert at the time of the hangings. Shortly before the execution, a small contingent of federal troops were stationed in Chicago in case of trouble.
The courthouse was demolished in 1892 to make way for a new six-story building (third image). After the current Cook County Criminal Courthouse was built on the Southwest Side at 26th and California, the 1892 courthouse building, by then called 70 West Hubbard, was used by the city health department. In 1985 it was converted by a private developer into offices under its current name of Courthouse Place.
Where the jail once stood is now a modern firehouse (fourth image). The alley is still there, as is, more importantly, the row of buildings to the west along Clark Street, which is part of the largest concentration of post-fire architecture remaining in the central city today.