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article imageOp-Ed: Old Jail Museum — An inside view of 19th century jail in Virginia Special

By Leigh Goessl     Jan 30, 2013 in Travel
Warrenton - The Old Jail Museum is located in Northern Virginia's Fauquier County. The museum is what the name implies, an old jail, one of the best preserved jails from an earlier era in the state of Virginia.
The Old Jail Museum, located in Warrenton, Virginia, is comprised of two historical buildings that were part of a prison built in the early 19th century. The jail was established in 1808, and a secondary building was built behind the original structure in 1823.
Over the years additional security doors and a maximum security "cage" were added just after the turn of the century. In total, the jail was operational for over 150 years, closing in 1966.
When the secondary jail was added, the 1808 building was converted into housing for the jailer and his family. Originally, the prison had no jailer and prisoners were left alone and the sheriff would drop in with a daily meal (they hoped!), according to the museum.
Originally scheduled to be demolished once operations ceased, the plans to flatten the building and turn it into a parking lot were changed. Instead, the Old Jail buildings were preserved and converted into a museum, according to a handout prepared by the Fauquier Historical Society. The group has done a remarkable job in preserving this historical landmark.
Upon arrival in the Old Jail Museum's entrance in the brick building built in 1808, one would never know they were in a former jail. The four-room building has been converted into museum rooms and also a kitchen, built in 1824, remains and is stocked with historical artifacts.
Visitors can tour these exhibits and also get a good look at the structure of both the 1808 and 1823 buildings. While the secondary jail building also houses some museum displays, you definitely get a more of a "feel" of how it was during the days the structure housed prisoners.
One room in particular is rather chilling with its metal cells, along with the carvings in its walls and peeling paint. This maximum security cell block contains a heavy-duty metal unit that was added to the room in 1909. Especially as you look outside the windows, which are double windows with several feet in between. In total, the exterior walls of the "new" jail building are 4-feet thick.
This cell was added to one of the rooms in 1909.
This cell was added to one of the rooms in 1909.
Area of the former exercise yard. This outdoor space was used for many purposes. It is believed a ro...
Area of the former exercise yard. This outdoor space was used for many purposes. It is believed a root cellar was located in this section of the yard.
The Old Jail Museum is open daily, except Mondays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is located at 10 Ashby St. in Warrenton, VA. Admission is free for this self-guided tour.
(Note: The museum is closed on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year's Day)
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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