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Good For Kids

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The main prisoner holding pen, it's a little hard to see, but it was typically packed with men and there was little room.
Photo Credit: guyonthego

The Old Jail in St. Augustine

167 San Marco Avenue St. Augustine, FL 32084
Open Daily, 8:30am to 4:30pm
904-829-3800 30 minutes or less
January 2013 Fall, Winter, Spring
$0-9 St. Augustine Florida
Website Historical Buildings
First review
The Old Jail in St. Augustine is a historic building constructed in 1891 by Henry Flagler. It was in operation for over 50 years and incarcerated both men and women. Tours of the two story facility include a guide who acts as one of the jail deputies as he leads the “new prisoners” around the facility. In addition to the jail itself, there is also a sheriff’s office and living quarters as well as some outdoor “attractions” such as a gallows and pillory.

The jail was intended to blend in with the historic character of St. Augustine so from the outside it looks more like a quaint Victorian building than a prison. However, life inside was brutal. Inmates lived in harsh and squalid conditions with little food and little care. Heat and overcrowding often were oppressive. Less dangerous prisoners were forced to work in chain gangs outdoors. This type of servitude caused resentment in the local community and prisoners who escaped often received refuge in various homes. This practice was the origin of the term “home free.” The sheriff and his family lived next door to the jail, and Sheriff Joe Perry is still around in various forms today.

The 30 minute tour starts with a personal welcome to the newest group of inmates from one of Sheriff Joe's deputies. The tour then heads indoors in which the deputy introduces everyone to their new home and points out various features and pleasantries of prison life. Since the prison housed both men and women in separate areas, the tour covers both types of quarters as well as the nature of the work that each was required to perform. The presentation was fast paced, lighthearted and entertaining. It's a great choice for kids. The one criticism of the tour was that there was insufficient time to read the signs and view the historical photographs in the jail prior to the arrival of the next tour, so if you are hungry for information, you may come away a bit disappointed. Otherwise, the tour was quite enjoyable and is recommended.
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