location that was chosen was Puerto Golondrina, to the east
of the city. It was here that the provisional building were
It was also here that the Military Prison began to carry
out its functions, amidst sheet metal houses and sheds brought
over from Isla de los Estados.There had been intentions of
setting up a penal colony, but these were unfruitful.
Construction of the "Presidio Nacional" began
in 1902 and finished in 1920. Labour was supplied by the prisoners
themselves. In 1911, the President signed a decree which fused
the Military Presidio with the Penitentiary for repeat-offenders
or "Cárcel de Reincidentes de Ushuaia". The
original idea was to build a "Penal Colony" for
580 inmates in Lapataia Bay. Some 2.500 hectares of land that
was on the border with Chile were reserved for this purpose.
In 1920, the Penitentiary had 5 pavilions with 76 external
cells each. The 386 cells were all designed for the occupancy
of only one prisoner, but the penitentiary at one point had
some 600 inmates.
The kitchen was set up between Pavilion 1, otherwise known
as the "Historic Pavilion" and Pavilion 2, and the
bakery was set up between pavilions 1 and 5. The workshops
were located in separate buildings. It was only in 1943 that
a modern hospital established on the premises. This hospital
was later to become the Naval Base Hospital and for a long
time it was to be the only one in the area.
The Central hall, or "Multiple Rotunda" was used
as a conference room, movie theatre and auditorium.
Numerous delinquents who had committed serious crimes came
to be incarcerated here through the course of time, some serving
life imprisonment and others serving considerably long sentences.
Inmates were paid for their work, elementary-school education
was offered and severe discipline was the norm.
The penitentiary had 30 work sectors, some of them were off
the premises. The workshops that were installed catered to
the penitentiary´s own needs and also offered some services
to the entire city of Ushuaia. Among these services we find
the first printing service in the city, along with telephone,
electricity, firefighting, etc.
Inmates were taken off the premises as a source of manual
labour in tasks such as the construction of streets, bridges,
buildings and obtaining lumber. This is how, in 1910, the
southernmost train in the world came to be built. It was 25
km. long and its route followed alongside Maipú street,
passing by the camp at Monte Susana and dividing in two separate
routs, heading towards what is nowadays the National Park.
The penitentiary also relied on several vessels, with "La
Godoy" being the most notorious.
In 1947, with the change in designation from National Territory
to a Maritime State, the National Presidency declared the
closure of the penitentiary. The installations were transferred
to the Marine Ministry. and a Naval Base was established in
it in 1950.