Scofield, Levi T. (1842-1917)
Levi Tucker Scofield (November 9, 1842-February 25, 1917) was a Cleveland, Ohio, architect who designed North Carolina’s massive, castellated Central Prison shortly after the Civil War. He was born Levi Tucker Schofield in Cleveland, Ohio, and in time changed the spelling of his name to Scofield. He attended Cleveland public schools and studied architecture and engineering, and then served in the Ohio infantry during the Civil War. After the war he returned to Cleveland, where he married and raised a family. He promptly entered the architectural profession and began to specialize in large institutional buildings such as schools, asylums for the insane, and penitentiaries, for which there was tremendous demand in the years after the war. He was the first Cleveland architect to join the American Institute of Architects, and he was also the sculptor of a Civil War monument called “These are my Jewels.”
How Scofield gained the commission to plan the large state prison in North Carolina is not known. For several years before the Civil War, there had been interest in building a state penitentiary for North Carolina as an improvement over the miserable conditions in local jails and prisons. There had been legislative efforts in that direction from 1815 onward (see William Nichols) but no such facility was funded.
In 1869 the General Assembly authorized funding and construction of a state penitentiary. The state obtained a design from Ohio architect Scofield for a grandiose and imposing castellated complex, comparable to other prison facilities throughout the nation. It is not known whether Scofield visited the site or what his relationship might have been with William J. Hicks, who managed the project. The initial quarters for prisoners (black and white) consisted of log huts, but work soon began on the planned brick facility, which was constructed by the prisoners with bricks they manufactured on site. Progress was slow at first, but after Hicks assumed the job of superintendent and architect of the prison, construction proceeded more rapidly as the prisoners made the bricks and laid up the brick walls for the edifice. A block of 64 cells was completed in 1875, and by 1884 the originally planned complex was finished.
The prison designed by Scofield typified many of its day—a large and imposing public facility, visible from the public thoroughfares and the railroad, meant to display the state’s investment in public safety. The castellated architectural style also evoked a popularly understood sense of protective, militant architecture. Over the years the massive, towered prison was expanded and altered to suit changing philosophies and needs. It was demolished, unmourned, in the late 20th century. A study of the planning, construction, and management of the prison is needed to trace and analyze the history of this important institution.
Scofield died February 25, 1917 in Cleveland and is buried in the city’s Lake View Cemetery.
- Elizabeth Reid Murray, Wake: Capital County of North Carolina, Vol. I, Prehistory through Centennial (1983).
- Elizabeth C. Waugh, North Carolina’s Capital, Raleigh (1967).
- Variant Name(s):State PenitentiaryDates:1869-1884Location:Raleigh, Wake CountyStreet Address:Raleigh, NCStatus:No longer standingType:PublicImages Puslished In:Elizabeth C. Waugh, North Carolina's Capital, Raleigh (1967).