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

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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.
Initially it was believed the Old Jail was built in 1779  however research later uncovered the origi...
Initially it was believed the Old Jail was built in 1779, however research later uncovered the original jail structure was built several decades later, in 1803.
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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.
Old Jail Museum  located in the historic district of Warrenton  Virginia.
Old Jail Museum, located in the historic district of Warrenton, Virginia.
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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.
The kitchen in the Old Jail was added in 1824 after the new jail building was constructed. This room...
The kitchen in the Old Jail was added in 1824 after the new jail building was constructed. This room rounded out the Old Jail as the building was converted into a home for the full time jailer and his family to live.
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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.
A window in the 1808 jail. Notice the bars are horizontal.
A window in the 1808 jail. Notice the bars are horizontal.
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Ongoing efforts to preserve history and locate items from days past is occurring at the Old Jail Mus...
Ongoing efforts to preserve history and locate items from days past is occurring at the Old Jail Museum. Several artifacts, such as these dishes, were found during excavation projects.
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One of the former cells located in the  new  jail  built in 1823.
One of the former cells located in the "new" jail, built in 1823.
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Old Jail Cell in Warrenton  Virginia
Old Jail Cell in Warrenton, Virginia
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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.
Sun streams through one of the old cells.
Sun streams through one of the old cells.
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The walls of the old cells added in 1909 contain carvings  etchings and other notations. Here is an ...
The walls of the old cells added in 1909 contain carvings, etchings and other notations. Here is an example.
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This cell was added to one of the rooms in 1909.
This cell was added to one of the rooms in 1909.
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This cage  which took up almost the entire room  housed maximum security prisoners from 1909 to 1966...
This cage, which took up almost the entire room, housed maximum security prisoners from 1909 to 1966. This room was the only one with this type of cell.
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You can see the thickness of the walls between barred windows
You can see the thickness of the walls between barred windows
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A view of the walls in the exercise yard behind the 1823 building. Historical accounts note this yar...
A view of the walls in the exercise yard behind the 1823 building. Historical accounts note this yard was also used for hangings from 1823 to approximately 1896.
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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.
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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 DigitalJournal.com
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