Nestled in the Old Town Trolley depot just north of the downtown district and within walking distance of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, St. John’s County Jail (or the “Old Jail,” to the locals) is a fascinating part of St. Augustine’s history that you’re sure to enjoy—if you dare to explore it!
The Old Jail was first built in 1891 when railroad and tourism tycoon Henry Flagler bought the land for his extravagant hotel, the Ponce de Leon. Recognizing that the city still needed a place to house its criminals, Flagler relocated the jail to its current position and had it designed by the same people who built Alcatraz in San Francisco. From the outside, the Old Jail is unrecognizable as a jail, apart from the barred windows; it looks like a pleasant and quaint Victorian house, which was an intentional effort on Flagler’s part to keep from disturbing the droves of tourists that came to visit St. Augustine each winter.
However, within its walls, the Old Jail held up to seventy-two prisoners, with its two-story northern wing holding sections for men, women, and those requiring maximum security, as well as a kitchen on the lower level and living quarters for the sheriff and their family—right across the hall from the prison cells! St. Augustine’s most dangerous criminals could be found in the maximum security section, including a cell for those on death row. During its active history from 1891 until 1953, a total of eight men were hung from the gallows located on the Old Jail’s compound.
What to Expect at the Old Jail
Visitors will find that the Old Jail has been renovated to give tourists a glimpse into the daily lives of St. Augustine’s most notorious prisoners, as well as paint a portrait of what the penal system in St. Augustine looked like many years ago. Costumed actors tell tales of the jail and its occupants, and even book you as an inmate! Additionally, the Old Jail has a large collection of weapons for you to inspect up close.
The Old Jail is open daily from 9:00am until 4:30pm, except on Christmas Day. Guided tours depart every twenty minutes, while night tours are offered as a part of the Ghosts and Gravestones tour, in which you explore St. Augustine’s reportedly haunted locations at night. Guests aged five years-old and younger are free, while adult prices generally range from $10.00 for general admission to $28.00 for the Ghosts and Gravestones tour. Free parking is available on the museum grounds.
Explore the Best of St. Augustine When You Book with The Ocean Gallery!
Our reservation specialists know all about the Old Jail and St. Augustine’s other neat attractions. Just ask us for more information when you book your luxury vacation rental! You won’t want to miss what St. Augustine has to offer; let The Ocean Gallery help you plan your greatest tropical getaway today!
Image By Excel23 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20571496