June 2012 - Go Directly to Jail!
Driving North or South along the US East Coast?



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Perhaps you have never thought about going to jail as something to do when on a road trip, but others have unlocked the cells for you. Along I-95, many places are re-purposing existing structures, so why not a jail? Two of them, Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton VA and the Old Jail Art Center in Darien GA, have taken what were bleak surroundings and turned them into creative spaces. While Old Jail House in St-Augustine, FL has made the jail an entertaining place to visit, the Burlington County Prison Museum just tells it like it was. And in Walterboro, SC you could've slept in the jail cells for free.

VA -

Women's Rights Jail

NJ - Washington Monument-like Jail
FL - Henry Flagler's Fancy Jail
GA - Art Jail
SC -
Water Tower Jail

VA - Women's Rights Jail

VA Exit 160: Workhouse Arts Center - For 80 years, this was a prison designed for Pres. Teddy Roosevelt's progressive vision, which was to provide non-violent criminals with fresh air, natural light and purposeful work for rehabilitation. Agricultural operations began in 1912, and then prisoners produced bricks to construct the buildings you now see.

A Women's Division held famous prisoners: about 168 women, most from the National Women's Party who were jailed for picketing at the White House for women's voting rights. Lucy Burns, who, along with Alice Paul, founded the National Women's Party, was one of them.

Eventually it became a medium security prison with watch towers, cells and wired fences. It closed in 1997. Think of this as you now see The Lorton Arts Foundation's new vision, the Workhouse Arts Center, with 100 artists in residence in open studios (right in the jail cells) and gallery exhibitions of local, regional and international artists.

Other arts are covered as well: film, performing arts, theatre and music, so every weekend there's something going on here. 9601 Ox Rd. www.workhousearts.org Tel: 703-495-0001.

NJ - Washington Monument-like Jail

NJ Exit 5: Burlington County Prison Museum - From 1811 to 1965, this was the oldest prison in continuous use in the U.S. Designed by Robert Mills, architect of the Washington Monument, the outside and inside haven't changed much, including the original cell doors and prisoner graffiti.

Mills suggested that all prisoners be taught to read (a bible was placed in each cell), write and learn a trade. Since there was no TV or internet in those days, tickets were sold to view the executions, and the first one was a female! You can see those stocks and gallows outside at the rear of the prison. 128 High St. www.prisonmuseum.net Tel: 609-265-5476 or 609-265-5858.

FL - Henry Flagler's Fancy Jail

FL Exit 318: Old Jail House - This jail was built in 1891 by Henry Flagler during the height of America's Gilded Age (which brought criminal activity!). In order to maintain the charming, resort atmosphere of St. Augustine, he built it as a pink estate to fit in with his other imposing buildings. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, you must sign on for a tour, where actors tell historical tales from the 60 years when is served as a working jail.

The 2-storey northern wing held areas for the general population, maximum security (a Death Row cell), a women's section and a kitchen downstairs. Eight men were hung from the gallows (which you can see) here. The south wing held the Sheriff's office and the quarters where he lived with his family. You are allowed to take photos from inside the "birdcage" cell.

Prisoners toiled as free farm laborers. The food was awful, so the prisoners would supplement it with animals caught on the farm. Toilets were a bucket per cell, and there were hardly any baths. Weapons (guns, knives, files) collected from the prisoners form the contraband collection shown here. Sometimes there are spooky night tours. 167 San Marco Ave.

GA - Art Jail  

GA Exit 49: Old Jail Art Center - This art center (supported by 265 members) is located in the Old Jail which was built in 1888, and along with the courthouse and the Old Firehouse, is one of the 3 oldest buildings in Darien.

The draw here is the 6 art galleries and the gift shop with locally crafted items. The McIntosh County History Museum is upstairs, along with classrooms. From now until July 31, Debbie Sue Mumford's perfect summer photographs of wildlife, birds and the coastal scenes grace the walls. 404 Northway (Rte 17). Tel: 912-437-7711. www.mcintoshartassociation.com

SC - Water Tower Jail

SC Exit 53 or 57: Walterboro -  Starting back In 1784, Walterboro was a summer retreat for nearby plantations. It is easy to follow Washington St.'s crushed seashell sidewalk along the newly defined antique row. When you get to the end of the walk, you will be staring at the Old Water Tower. Its 133' tall and built around 1915. The tank above the windows holds about 100,000 gallons of water. The interesting part, though, are the 3 jail cells at the base of the tower. Years ago when travellers were stranded, they were allowed to sleep there.

After your walk, set yourself on a counter stool at the 60-year-old Hiott's Pharmacy, 373 Washington St., for a $.60 or $.80 real fountain coke (cherry or vanilla too) and a pimento cheese sandwich. (If you're there on the right morning you'll even find 84-years-young Mr. Eddie Hiott as the soda jerk).

There's another Old Jail in Walterboro at 239 N. Jefferies Blvd which you can view from the outside. This landmark structure resembles a miniature fortified castle and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designed by noted Charleston Architects Jones and Lee, is a Neo-gothic structure and was constructed by Jonathan and Benjamin Lucas in 1855-1856. It served as the Colleton County Jail through 1937. The first floor housed the jailer and his family, and originally had a separate kitchen. The Old Jail is said to be built with brick from the old Jacksonboro Courthouse, which served the county until 1822. It is often said the jail is haunted...

For more information, visit the Walterboro Welcome Center, 1273 Sniders Highway. www.walterborosc.org   Tel: 843-538-4353.

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