The Old Jail Saint Augustine Reviews
Harsh life in jail Mar 18, 2010
Completed in 1891, the Old Jail housed prisoners for over 60 years. It is one of the few surviving 19th-century jails in Florida. The jail was a gift from rail road magnat Henry Flagler and it was build to resemble a fine hotel. Even though it looks nice, the jail is made of solid reinforced steel. The locks and levers on the jail takes several guards, working simultaneously, to open, making escape difficult. No one actually escaped from this prison.
As a visitor you will be "processed" as a new prisoner by costumed deputies. Before you enter the building a short stop is made in front of the gallows, which ended the lives of numerous criminals. These were "public hangings" which could be attended by town folk. It was not uncommon for over 500 people to crowd the prison yard to view an execution.
The tour goes through the original cell blocks were you can see the male and female cells and the kitchen where female prisoners worked from 5 am - 10 pm. Then you continue through the Sheriff´s quarters where he and his family lived adjacent to 72 prisoners and then to the maximum-security area. A mannequin of the south´s most feared sheriff, Joe Perry, informs you about life in jail. In the same room you can also see a large collection of guns used in actual crimes.
Life at the county jail in St Augustine was hard. Up at dawn to work on the county roads, inmates were expected to survive under the harshest living conditions imaginable. Prisoners worked 10 - 12 hours a day in the blazing Florida sun. One was chained to the other so that no one could escape.
Temperatures inside the jail were staggering in the summer and could reach as much as 110F/43C. The smell of unwashed bodies and overflowing chamber pots permeated the building. The prisoners were allowed one bath a month and it was done in the same water. The bedding was filthy, dirty and positively unsanitary. Some of the bunks did not even have mattresses and blankets were not given to inmates. Sickness and death was not uncommon in Florida incarceration facilities.
The Old Jail is absolutely worth a visit. Being guided by tour guides in deputy and prisoner costumes makes it even more alive. It is open 7 days a week from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm.
$5 Children (6-12)
Children under 6 free
Tickets are cheaper if you buy them online. You can also get different packages. If you buy the Old Town Trolly Tours, entrance to the Old Jail is included.
Part of the Saint Agustine, Florida travel blog
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