Devil In The Details: The History Of St Augustines Old Jail
The history of the Old Jail starts off rather simply. It was built in 1891 and served as the county jail for 62 years.
But let’s take a step back. The history of St. John’s County Jail starts with a millionaire. Industrialist and tourism tycoon Henry Flagler had just left New York City for Jacksonville, Florida, with his ailing wife. He’d been advised to escape the brutal weather of Manhattan for a more temperate climate so his wife could potentially recover from a bout of consumption. Unfortunately, she would not survive.
Henry Flagler soon remarried and settled in the Ancient City of St. Augustine, Florida. Being the mover and shaker he was, he saw the small town’s potential as a prominent tourist spot. But the area was severely lacking in accommodation. He then set off in search of some prime real estate on which to build an extravagant hotel, the Ponce de Leon.
He set his sights on a piece of land that overlooked the county jail. Now, in 1890, the St. John County jail was a true eyesore. To get the seedy claptrap of a building out of his sights, Henry donated $10,000 to the St. John County Commissioners – this was quite the cushy deal in 1890.
As a result, the jail facilities were moved to a new location several blocks from their original site. With a rich building fund, they hired The Pauly Company to design the new jail. It’s important to note that this was the same professional outfit that would go on to build the infamous Alcatraz Prison.
Old Jail Museum Tour In St Augustine
- 30 min
Located on San Marco Avenue in St. Augustines Uptown District, the Old Jail Museum offers an educational and intriguing look into what it would have been like to be a prisoner in the Nations Oldest City. Take a guided tour led by the jailers for a compelling look at the cells where imprisoned men and women once lived, the maximum security area reserved for the most nefarious criminals and a collection of weapons.
St Augustine: Tour Pass With Over 27 Attractions
Gain full admission to over 27 St. Augustine tours, attractions, and historic sites, and save up to 40% with this pass. Skip the lines and make reservations in advance of your trip. Choose between a 1, 2, or 3-day pass.Take advantage of a 100% digital pass with interactive maps, booking tools, and detailed information. Simply show your digital pass at the ticket window for your chosen tour or attraction.Upon purchase, receive a text and email to start using the pass on your smartphone. Get instant access to tours and attractions with full admission.Featured Tours Hop-on Hop-off Trolley Tour Ghost and Gravestones Trolley Tour Creepy Crawl Haunted Pub Walking Tour Dolphin Odyssey and Sightseeing Boat Tour Ghostly Experience Walking Tour Lightner Museum Admission Nights of Lights Boat Cruise Paranormal Investigation of Fort Grounds Sunset Bring Your Own Beer Boat Cruise World Golf Hall of Fame Admission Pirate and Treasure Museum Fountain of Youth Park and MuseumStandard Attractions Classic Car Museum Colonial Quarters Experience Tour Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center Oldest House Museum Complex Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse Oldest Store Museum Experience Potter’s Wax Museum Spanish Military Hospital Museum St. Augustine Aquarium General Admission St. Augustine History Museum The Old Jail Museum Tour Villa Zorayda Museum Ximenez-Fatio House Museum MarineLand General Admission
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St Augustine: Trolley Tour & St Augustine History Museum
See historic St. Augustine on this full-day hop-on hop-off trolley tour. Listen as your conductors narrate the tour with a fascinating and fun mix of trivia and stories. Find out about the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the country at the St. Augustine History Museum.Enjoy a full 90-minute tour on the trolley or have the freedom to hop-on and hop-off at any of the 22 stops. Avoid getting through traffic or having to find and pay for parking. Let your conductor take care of navigating for you.Relive the story of the first settlement in North America as you see Castillo de San Marcos, the Spanish fort built in the 17th century. See the famous spring that Ponce de Leon which is deemed the Fountain of Youth, where you can actually sample the water.Explore the site of the first mass in America at the Mission of Nombre de Dios. Experience early St. Augustine as you tour Old St. Augustine Village, which features houses from the 18th and 19th centuries.Admire the Gonzalez-Alvarez House, the oldest documented colonial house in Florida which was lived in by British, Spanish, and American colonists. Immerse yourself in the 500 year history of the city as you view the exhibits at the St. Augustine History Museum.
Old Jail In St Augustine Fl
The St. Augustine Old Jail attraction features professional actors retelling visitors about the history of the jail, artifacts such as a collection of guns used in crimes in St. Augustine and a guided tour of the historic jail and its gallows.
Built in 1891, the building is a two and a half story Romanesque-Revival style building on San Marco Avenue. The construction of the building was paid for by local businessman Henry Flagler. It is one of the few remaining jails in St. Augustine that date back to the 19th century.
Flagler offered to pay for the construction of the jail because the existing jail at the time was located on Cordova Street across from Flagers hotel the Ponce de Leon.
In October of 1889, a grand jury described the jail there as a local nuisance so Flagler offered the county funding to construct the jail in a different location.
In June of 1890, the city accepted Flaglers offer and purchased a parcel of land in northern St. Augustine. Construction started on the jail in August of 1890 and was completed the following year. Flagler paid $10,000 for the construction and $2,500 for the land. Flagler also had the old jail demolished and built the Bacchus Club in its place.
The roof of the building is a hip roof covered in metal sheeting with an octagonal cupola and three gabled pavilions on the north, east and west sides of the building.
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St Augustines 11 Best Things To Do
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St. Augustines 11 Best Things To Do
Ancient City, with a nickname like that, is full of historical sights. While you may not have enough time to see them all, there is no way to leave St. Augustine without seeing the Old Jail and the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. Visit St. Augustine Beach and the St. Augustine Wild Reserve if you love nature. There are even a few unconventional activities nearby, such as ghost tours of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum and cannon and musket firing demonstrations in the Colonial Quarter.
Loyalist Haven Under British Rule
The , signed after ‘s victory over France and Spain during the , ceded Florida to Great Britain in exchange for the return of and . The vast majority of Spanish colonists in the region left Florida for , Florida became Great Britain’s fourteenth and fifteenth , and because of the political sympathies of its British inhabitants, St. Augustine became a haven during the .
After the mass exodus of St. Augustinians, Great Britain sought to repopulate its new colony. The London Board of Trade advertised 20,000-acre lots to any group that would settle in Florida within ten years, with one resident per 100 acres. Pioneers who were “energetic and of good character” were given 100 acres of land and 50 additional acres for each family member they brought. Under Governor , almost three million acres of land were granted in East Florida alone. Second stories were added to existing Spanish homes and new houses were built. Cattle ranching and plantation agriculture began to thrive.
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St Augustine Wild Reserve
St. Augustine Wild Reserve offers an up-close look at exotic animals. In 1995, this nonprofit sanctuary was founded to care for rescued and unwanted exotic animals. Among the animals housed here are mountain lions, bears, ligers, and leopards. Residents include five arctic wolves and an African lion that once belonged to Michael Jackson.
Visitors have praised the St. Augustine Wild Reserves treatment of animals and informative volunteers. You may wish to take pictures of the animals, but leave your camera at your hotel since photography is not permitted at the property.
Located 16 miles northwest of St. Augustine, the St. Augustine Wild Reserve provides free parking on-site. Visitors must reserve a tour on the propertys website in order to tour the facility. Most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays at 2 p.m., tours last about two hours. Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for children ages 6 to 10. Children under 5 are free. Entrance fees include a walk of the reserve and a CD with photos of the animals. Visitors are provided with cold water and wet towels on hot days. A nine-seat golf cart is also available for guests with disabilities.
Ponce De Leons Fountain Of Youth Archaeological Park
Ponce de Leons Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is where St. Augustines original settlement was located. In addition to the Fountain of Youth, which is believed to have anti-aging properties, the park contains a planetarium, a blacksmith shop, and a replica of Timucua village. The parks grounds are home to a number of white and blue peacocks .
Travelers found the attraction to be lackluster and not worth the entrance fee, but most said it was an important archeological site. Some of the parks highlights include drinking from the Fountain of Youth and watching a cannon firing demonstration. This spring contains sulfur water, which emits an unpleasant rotten egg smell.
Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park sits more than a mile north of the historic downtown area of St. Augustine, so youll need to drive or take the trolley to get to it. Visitors can park for free on-site and at the trolleys stop. No. 23 drops them off and picks them up at the entrance to the attraction. Daily hours are 9 a.m. 6 p.m., but same-day tickets must be purchased by 5 p.m. Tickets cost $15 at the box office or $14 online, and senior citizens and children 6 to 12 receive discounts. Kids 5 and younger are free to enter the attraction. In addition to exhibits and demonstrations, restrooms, a cafe, and a gift shop are included with all tickets.
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Your The Old Jail Includes:
- Take a tour of the maximum security cells
- Meet Sheriff Joe Perry wholl fill you in on how executions were held in the gallows
- Take a walk through the mens and womens cells
- See where the warden and his family lived just footsteps away
- Masks are strongly recommended inside except for vaccinated guests
Take a guided tour led by the jailers for a compelling look at the cells where imprisoned men and women once lived, the maximum security area reserved for the most nefarious criminals and a collection of weapons.
Visitors can also take a look at the cell blocks, gallows and sheriffs quarters. See where the sheriff, his wife and children lived, right upstairs from the prisoners, and how they used their own kitchen to prepare meals for the inmates. A tour through this attraction will show visitors what life was like as an inmate and how the Old Jail helped shape St. Augustines history.
60 Years of ServiceFor nearly 60 years until 1953 the Old Jail served as the St. Johns County facility for petty thieves and hardened criminals. There were even eight recorded executions, two of which were accused murderers. Sim Jackson, who was hanged in 1908 after murdering his wife with a straight razor, is among the group.
Staugustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum
St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum displays shipwreck artifacts, a wooden boat building exhibit, and a 165-foot-tall lighthouse. This lighthouse was built between 1871 and 1874 and had 219 steps. It is the oldest brick structure in St. Augustine. Some believe the lighthouse is also haunted by former lighthouse keepers and two young girls who died there in the late 1800s .
The best part of visiting the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is climbing to the top of the lighthouse. Youll see breathtaking views of Salt Run lagoon and St. Augustine from the top. Some caution, however, that less active visitors may have difficulty climbing the lighthouse.
On Anastasia Island, 2 miles southeast of St. Augustines historic city center, youll find the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. The lighthouse and museum are open daily from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., with extended hours on holidays and during the summer. The attraction has a museum, a lighthouse, a boat-building shed, a childrens playground, restrooms, a cafe, and several nature trails in addition to the lighthouse, lighthouse, and boat building shed. The property cannot be accessed by public transportation or on foot from downtown, but free parking is available on the property.
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The History Of The St Augustine Old Jail Museum
The story of St. Augustine is rather simple. It starts with millionaire industrialist Henry Flagler looking at prime real-estate, getting his heart set on a spot for his magnificent new Ponce de León Hotel, and asking his hangers-on:
What the hell is that on top? On top of where? Where Im envisioning my hotel, thats where. A county jail? Nope, that wont do tear it down.
And with that, and the knowledge that money makes the world go round, Flagler offered the county a cushy deal. A new $10.000 dollar jail, designed by the same lads that built San Franciscos Alcatraz, with one and one very important caveat.
Guys Trust in papa Henry Ill make the place look cozy and cute. The outside is meant to hide all your jailhouse shenanigans. Remember this is going to be a tourist town Who needs an eye-sore?
Flagler deliberately devised the new jail to seem friendly from the outside so as not to turn off guests visiting his elegant nearby hotel. This was one of the first stops on Flaglers Florida, he simply couldnt have the riff-raff muddling his vision.
The Old Jail served as the St Johns County Jail until 1953. Through all those years the place was a madhouse of depravity and cruelty. Most prisoners debasing themselves to common animals while the staff running the joint slowly went insane and did all manner of sketchy things.
Condemned to die?
Lets get a selfie! Dont be a spoilsport, just ignore the screams and cries Out of sight out of mind. Florida, baby!
Old Town Trolley Stops In St Augustine
Hop on and off at any of our 22 convenient stops.
- Ripleys Believe It Or Not
- 19 Old Town Trolley Welcome Center
- 20 Mission of Nombre de Dios
- 21 Old Senator Tree & Villa 1565
Daily. Tours depart continuously every 15 minutes.9:00 am to 4:30 pm
Last tour is at 3pm.Thanksgiving: Last tour is at 3pm. Last tour is at 3pm. Closed.
Final boarding at all trolley stops will be at 4pm on following 2021 dates:November 20, 24, 26-27.December 3-4, 10-12, 16-23, 26-27.
Reservations are NOT needed or accepted.
Hours of operation may be extended during holiday weekends and during peak season. Please call 829-3800 for details.
First Tour of the Day:
Last Full Tour of the Day:Please note that guests taking this tour will not be able to use the on/off feature.
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Authentic Old Jail Travel Tips
- The Old Jail is listed on the Florida and National Register of Haunted Places.
- The Old Jail has been featured on the Sci-Fi channel series, Ghost Hunters.
- The Old Jail has been the site of countless supernatural occurrences.
- Visitors to the Old Jail have experienced cold spots, strange odours, and loud banging noises, orbs of light, and even apparitions even during the day.
- Youll be trained to use real ghost-hunting equipment and embark on a real paranormal investigation.
- Guests are advised to bring their cameras and camcorders.
- Other paranormal related equipment will be provided to the guests: EMF detectors, Field Matrix Scanners , Digital Voice Recorders.
- Guests are also advised to wear comfortable shoes and clothing for the St. Augustine paranormal tours.
- This experience is perfect for experienced paranormal enthusiasts, but due to the intensity of the paranormal activity that may occur on this tour, it is not recommended for children.
- It is not wheel chair friendly and even strollers, since you have to climb steps.
Uncovering The Dark Side St Augustines Old Jail
Like many jails of old, the conditions at St. Johns County Jail were nothing short of deplorable and inhumane. At its peak, the story building held a total of 84 prisoners, 12 of whom were female. Every inmate was required to labor off their sentence, be it in the fields or front garden. There was no electricity or running water.
Baths were infrequent, and toilet facilities were almost non-existent as they consisted of only one bucket per cell. Considering some cells housed up to 6 inmates, its not surprising to hear that violence, death, and disease ravaged the prison.
The Old Jail also had a Death Row cell for those condemned to die. A total of eight men were hung from the gallows throughout its history. It’s quite unfortunate that the prison authorities didn’t quite understand the science of hanging someone to death. The length of rope and weight of the person have to be carefully considered to provide a humane execution. Those executed at the Old Jail suffered a torturous death, some of them taking 14 minutes to die.
But were the prison officials really unaware of the science? See, the philosophy of the jail was that prisoners were there to be punished, not rehabilitated. The jail conditions and tales of medical experiments and abusive guards support this philosophy.
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