A visit, and lucky private tour, was educational and enlightening. You could be sent here for murder, or petty crime. Either way survival was questionable.
The jail was built in 1802 on land set aside for public use. Over time some changes were made, a tower was removed due to the 1886 earthquake. Most of the inside structure remains as it was…and that was most interesting.
In time a hospital, poor house, workhouse for runaway slaves, and this Jail was built on the square. The jail housed petty thieves, famous murderers, and the last pirates sailing the coast here to the Caribbean. Civil war prisoners were also kept here.
Since Charleston did not have an asylum the second floor was used at times. Any African descent seamen coming into the port had to stay here until the ship left. Women and children were kept in the same cells as male inmates. In general this entire place was pretty horrible.
The courtyard, like all old prisons, held the gallows. Not the ones we have seen in the movies, but it had one. No details are needed here.
Still owned by the City of Charleston it is leased to a touring company that has exclusive touring rights. They invested $ 1 million for some restoration. Ghost tours, and TV shows have used this property.
Bulldog Tours will provide a guide to walk you around, and in, the jail.