Old City Jail – Charleston, South Carolina
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Commonly referred to as the Old Jail, the former Charleston District Jail was built in 1802 and operated as such until 1939. In 1822 renowned architect Robert Mills designed a fireproof four-story wing, which was later demolished so the current octagonal wing could be added in 1856. However, the jail is more known for its ghosts and abject prisoners than its architecture.
One of the jail’s more famous occupants was notorious murderess Lavinia Fisher, hanged here in 1820 and the first woman in South Carolina to receive the death penalty. According to legend, her last words were, “If anyone has a message for the devil, tell me and I’ll deliver it myself.” Marauding pirates in port and Federal prisoners during the Civil War were also housed here during the jail’s sordid history. Also, Denmark Vesey was held in one of the ominous-looking towers after his slave rebellion plot was discovered, as were four of his white supporters.
The building was purchased by the Housing Authority of Charleston in 1939 after the jail closed. It remained empty during the following decades until the American College of the Building Arts acquired it in 2000. The college was founded in 1998 and originally located at McLeod Plantation on James Island. The school offers Bachelor of Applied Sciences in the Building Arts in six craft specializations, and students frequently host galas and tours to benefit the school’s programs.
The Old City Jail is rumored to be haunted, and some downtown Charleston tour companies even have access to the jail for ghost tours. Haunted or not, the historic building is well worth a look to those interested in the Romanesque Revival jail, its legends, and its ghosts.
Old City Jail Info
Address: 21 Magazine Street, Charleston, SC 29401
Old City Jail Map
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