From the Richmond Times, 3/21/1899, p. 7, c. 3
The Famous Old Structure is Soon to Be Wrecked
The passing of Libby Prison is at hand. The grim building which has been for several years the Mecca of old soldiers and sightseers will by the end of the month be torn down. On its site is to be reared a monster exhibition building.
There is a bare possibility that the famous old bricks and beams may be used in a modified form in the construction of a new building as a drawing card for some private enterprise, but as a place sacred to the memory of the 40,000 boys in blue who suffered within its walls during the war between the States it will disappear. The Libby Prison Company, which brought it from Richmond, Va., has gone out of existence and the structure is now in the hands of the Coliseum Company, which intends to construct on the grounds a big building wither for exhibition or business purposes, and to sell the old structure to some wrecking concern. The collection of relics of the late war, with its added curiosities commemorating the history of the whole country, which date from Lord Cromwell’s chair to machetes from Santiago, is the property of Charles F. Gunther, and will be kept intact. For a time, at least, it will be stored safely in Chicago and several projects are on hand to place it in a museum in this or some other city. Within the last ten years 3,500 men who had been confined in the prison placed little brass plates on the floors where they slept during the long, lonesome nights, and of the 109 men who escaped through the famous tunnel at least nine are living and most of them have come to Chicago to gaze at the old fireplace where they began the perilous attempt to free themselves.
The war of 1861-5 is not the only feature of the country’s growth which is represented in the great exhibition. Revolutionary times are called to life in the case which contains the huge brocade coat and velvet knee breeches of the Father of His Country. One of the rails split by “Honest Abe” is a favorite relic with visitors. Byron’s curved sword lies beside the pearl-handled sword of mad Ludwig of Bavaria. Andrew Johnson’s big inaugural hat rubs against the rusty goose he used when a tailor, and a grewsome curiosity is pointed out as the beam from which Lincoln’s slayers were hanged.
A quarter of a million dollars is the modest estimate put on the value of this huge collection, and the promoters of the museum insist that more strangers than Chicagoans have visited the museum since its opening. The old building, which began its existence in 1845 as a ship chandler’s block, became a tobacco warehouse, then a wholesale grocer’s establishment, then a Confederate prison, and, finally, after the fall of Richmond, a place of confinement for the prisoners captured by the Northern soldiers. – Chicago News.