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The Old Charleston City Jail - A Historic Charleston Landmark

Posted on 31 Oct 2013
Category: Tours, Historic Sites
Author: Steve Vail

A foreboding, grim, and haunting presence

The Old Charleston City Jail - From its original construction in 1802 to 1939, the building located at 21 Magazine Street was utilized as a jail and insane asylum. With the exterior stucco now falling off and exposing the brickwork beneath, this medieval, gothic-like style building projects a foreboding, grim, and haunting presence. As if that was not enough, since its closing in 1939 , it has a history of strange, mysterious, and unexplained occurrences that continue to this day. It's considered to be one of the most haunted buildings in the US.


History of the Old Charleston City Jail

There is a great deal of history surrounding the Old Charleston City Jail, that can hardly be considered "positive". However, the same can be said about any detention center/jail from that same era; or even some in other parts of the world today. There is something positive that can be gleaned from delving into, knowing, and understanding the history that surrounds the old Charleston City Jail. As a result of lessons learned, the humane treatment of prisoners housed within the US prison system today, is well beyond what it was from 1802 to 1939.

The strange appeal of the Old Charleston City Jail

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I'm not sure if it's the romantic in me or just a strange sense of nostalgia, but as I walk around this structure taking photographs of its apparent antiquity, I am intrigued while at the same time relieved that it's no longer a prison. Unlike most of the other historic buildings in Charleston, I have no desire to even imagine myself being anywhere near this place when it was in its supposed "prime". Yet as it is now, it has a certain "appeal" to it, that seems to beacon onlookers to take a glimpse into its dark painful past - with a cry, "Do not forget all that took place here! Do not repeat the wrongs that occurred"


Old Charleston City Jail - They say it's... "Haunted"

Haunted?... Well, I for one am certainly haunted by the memories of the many men, women, and children of whom endured this place as their home during its one hundred thirty-seven years of operation as a jail and insane asylum. Since the closing of the jail in 1939, there has been more than just a few strange occurrences of the mysterious and unexplained happenings within the walls of this old building. There is no doubt an ominous, dark, and dreary presence in and around Charleston's Old City Jail.

The Old Charleston City Jail - Looking to the future

Today, Enterprising professional businesses are making ongoing contributions toward the memories and restoration of one of Charleston's most notable old buildings. The American College of Building Arts has its main campus housed here - It acquired the property from the City of Charleston Public Housing Dept in 2000. Restoration and maintenance of the over 200-year-old building have become one of their major projects as well as an excellent teaching and learning experience. Bull Dog Tour Company gives a "Haunted Jail Tour" of the facility that's both entertaining and educational. To learn more - follow the link and schedule a tour... And tell the folks at Bull Dog Tours that the folks at Charleston and Low Country sent you. Oh... and check out the video below.

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