Friday, February 14, 2014

Photo Essay: Lincoln Heights Jail, Closed to Public (Updated for 2017)

[Ed: new photos added 2/23/14 and 3/22/17]

The Lincoln Heights Jail had piqued my interest not only in terms of Hollywood lore and its place in LA crime history (having locked up Zoot Suit rioters, Watts rioters, and more)...



...but also because of its prime location along the Los Angeles River, by the train tracks, nestled in between Elysian Park and Chinatown and Montecito Heights and Northeast LA.



There have been talks of converting the decommissioned building into a "green zone" as part of the LA River revitalization project, featuring an urban farm.



But for now, it's only open as a (frequent) filming location for movies, reality TV, music videos and more.



If you're shooting something, you get to spend the day (or night) in jail.



One end of the building is actually in active use by the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts.



Their entrance to the parking lot looks like a military-grade entrance gate...



...with its decrepit security kiosk and jaunty mailbox.



During the day, there are open gates inviting you in...



...but at some point, they are locked, and the barbed wire keeps the vandals and thieves out.



From the outside, it looks more like a warehouse than a jail...



...though it is imposing.



There's no one around.



You can only hear the pigeons.



The fa├žade reflects the sunshine...



...which streams into the second floor cellblock windows for a few hours a day.





















This part of the jail doesn't actually feel very abandoned, because its frequent shooting schedule keeps it well cared-for.



Most of the sinks and urinals have been torn out of the walls, though a couple of them remain.



The floor is a labyrinth of cages...



...until you reach one blocked area, too dilapidated even for crews, with hazardous peeling lead paint on the ceilings above.



Parts of the second floor contain large, open rooms with no bars...



...that could be any type of room in any type of building.





Up through the stairwell...



...where the iron bars persist...



...and the shadows grow more dramatic...



...until you reach the roof...



...where open skies do not block the sun...



...and the jail rises above its neighbors.







Even up on the roof, there are some dark corners that attract the eye of directors and shooters, but they're generally unsafe, and disgustingly covered in pigeon poop.



And downstairs, where they don't permit film productions, there is the sought-after grime of urban explorers and ruin porn photographers that you don't really never used to see anywhere else in the jail—at least not in the areas deemed safe for film locations.



It used to be that you'd have to know where to look to at least catch a glimpse of those hidden places.



The interior is even worse than the exterior, from what I've seen in photos. I haven't seen that damage first-hand. I'm not sure I want to.

Related Posts:
Satisfyingly Spooked for the Year
In Captivity