Tag Archives: jail

Behind The Doors, Old Charleston Jail

The Old Jail housed a great variety of inmates. John and Lavinia Fisher, and other members of their gang, convicted of highway robbery in the Charleston Neck region were imprisoned here in 1819 to 1820. They were said to be the first known serial killers (this was wrong, they were highway men).

Some of the last 19th-century high-sea pirates were jailed here in 1822 while they awaited hanging.

The Jail was active after the discovery of Denmark Vesey’s planned slave revolt. Although the main trials were held in the Workhouse, some slaves were briefly held in both the Jail and the Poor House, and four white men convicted of supporting the 1822 plot were imprisoned here. (Wikipedia)

Behind The Doors, Old Charleston Jail
Behind The Doors, Old Charleston Jail

Note; The old Charleston Jail is being renovated to be used for commercial purposes. A few historians and photographers were invited to document the historical site before it is gone. This is a part of the project.

 

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (7)

The jail, built in 1802 was part of Charleston set aside for public use in 1680. The use was this jail, a poor house, hospital, and work house for run away slaves. The jail was used for many different things including an asylum.

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (7)
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (7)

These are photographs from the third floor where previously I was told an asylum was added to the prison. It might have been the fourth floor, the top of this building, which was removed after the great Charleston earthquake.

A  terrible place for anyone in general, if they were actually ill locking them in a brutal prison was a really bad idea.

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (7)
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (7)

Like many buildings of it’s time an air shaft, in the center, provided circulation (I was raised in NYC in a small 1800’s apartment. My bedroom window was exactly this view…without bars).

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (7)
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (7)

Large open rooms covered much of this floor.

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (7)
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (7)

Above is what you see as you climb the stairs to the top floor. There is a lot of old furniture and woodwork in the basement. Perhaps the antique wheelchair came from there. I do know it’s the perfect prop for the asylum.

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (7)
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (7)

Above is one of the series of doors leading to the various rooms. The first door was wood, when opened you find the second of steel bars. A guard could look on both sides of the door through steel bars using the slightly curved center seen here. There were to be no surprises opening doors in the jail.

Note; The old Charleston Jail is being renovated to be used for commercial purposes. A small group was invited to visit and photograph the historical site before it is gone. This is part of that project.

 

 

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (3)

An important part of documenting the old jail prior to renovations was to capture the building, from the outside, and it’s old brick and stucco facade.

The outside must be completely repaired and covered to pass any inspections. The history will be lost.

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (3)
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (3)

What you can’t see is the details of the handmade bricks. Some very sad details. Slave labor made much of the bricks used. Children worked the kilns and their small fingers imprints, from touching the hot brick, can still be found.

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (3)
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (3)

Old hand wrought bars and fittings may remain in a few places, but modern safety laws will mostly have there removed, and discarded.

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (3)
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (3)

I walk around here and still surprised that there actually where people who managed an escape.

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (3)
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (3)

When people were placed here, even for a short time, I don’t know how they survived never mind escape.

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (3)
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (3)
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (3)
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (3)

 

To view additional articles select the tag ‘jail’ from the web site side bar or search the ‘jail’.

Note; The old Charleston Jail is being renovated to be used for commercial purposes. A small group was invited to visit and photograph the historical site before it is gone. This is part of that project.

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (2)

The jail was built in 1802. By design it was meant to be intimidating, to serve as a warning. And for good reason since given the history this may have been one of the most brutal places in the US. It was closed in 1939 for being ‘inhumane’. Up to 10,000 people may have perished here over the years.

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (2)
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (2)

Towers were removed in the late 1800’s after Charleston had a large earthquake. Other buildings, including the workhouse (a place that made the jail itself pale in comparison) have been torn down over time.

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (2)
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (2)

The court of the jail has it’s own history. Execution by hanging was common. Since the jail is surrounded by old houses there were spectators for the executions.

During the Civil War the court yard was used to house prisoners from the 54th Massachusetts regiment. This was a famous African American unit that was kept here because the Union Army wanted them returned as prisoners of war. The Confederate States considered them runaway slaves. The unfortunate soldiers were here until the end of the war.

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (2)
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (2)

The old Charleston Jail is being renovated to be used for commercial purposes. A small group was invited to visit and photograph the historical site before it is gone. This is part of that project.

 

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale (1)

The old historical Charleston Jail is about to be ‘changed’. Renovated I guess is the technical term. It has been under new ownership for a while, and time has caught up with it.

Ellen and I were honored to be invited to join a group of historians and photographers to see and document the jail as it is before things are removed  and construction begins. The collective knowledge gathered for this shoot was absolutely humbling.

Old Charleston Jail, A Finale
Old Charleston Jail, A Finale

As is my own style I choose selective parts of the jail to photograph, and of course throw in some drama as I documented it.

My work will take several articles, I will include links to others contributions (Facebook will be popular with others I’m sure).

The jail has a dark disturbing history with African Americans. Mr. Joseph McGill was with us sharing his knowledge and I strongly recommend you visit his organization (click the link) The Slave Dwelling Project.

For several years (click here) Bulldog Tours has been providing tours and special access to the Old Charleston Jail. It was John D. LaVerne and Randall Johnson that reached out from Bulldog to invite this group of known Charleston historians.

Brandon Coffey, the founder of (click here) The South Carolina Picture Project contacted us and it was greatly appreciated. The ‘Project’ is an on going venture to have local photographers document the historical ‘nooks and crannies’ of South Carolina.

All the new, and past, articles here on this subject can be found by clicking the word Jail ‘tag’ in this web site sidebar.

More to come on the Old Charleston Jail.

Views Of The Charleston Jail

Most of these photographs are from the 3rd floor of the Charleston jail. This was where the prisoners considered dangerous were housed.

Views Of The Charleston Jail - click to enlarge
Views Of The Charleston Jail – click to enlarge

Guards did not enter the area without first checking through peep holes in the first doors. Of course gates of bars were right behind any solid doors.

Views Of The Charleston Jail - click to enlarge
Views Of The Charleston Jail – click to enlarge
Views Of The Charleston Jail - click to enlarge
Views Of The Charleston Jail – click to enlarge

There were also special cell areas where prisoners were disciplined.

Views Of The Charleston Jail - click to enlarge
Views Of The Charleston Jail – click to enlarge
Views Of The Charleston Jail - click to enlarge
Views Of The Charleston Jail – click to enlarge

And last here is the far end of the 3rd floor, top of the stairs.

Views Of The Charleston Jail - click to enlarge
Views Of The Charleston Jail – click to enlarge

At some point this was also used as an asylum. It was the only one in Charleston.

For more information click this link.

The Waiting Room, Old Charleston Jail

A dark and bizarre room within the jail. I called it the ‘Waiting Room’.

A jail room was set aside for a condemned prisoner. A number of days before the execution he was moved here.

The Waiting Room, Old Charleston Jail - click to enlarge
The Waiting Room, Old Charleston Jail – click to enlarge

Now it gets weird (my opinion). A few days later the executioner was locked in the jail room also.

And then… a few days later a minister was locked in the same room.

Prisoner, executioner, and minister waited here until the final day.

The Waiting Room, Old Charleston Jail - click to enlarge
The Waiting Room, Old Charleston Jail – click to enlarge

 

Solitary Confinement

It was a different type of solitary when this was a jail.

Solitary Confinement - click to enlarge
Solitary Confinement – click to enlarge

Yes, you were inside a dark room. There could be 12 others in the same dark room. Each standing inside their own rock box, that leaned against the wall. Not standing, not lying down.

Solitary Confinement - click to enlarge
Solitary Confinement – click to enlarge

Solitary was behind this door.