History of Palmyra’s Old Stone Jail

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While the word “jail” may conjure images of guards on every corner, orange jumpsuits, and metal bars, it has a more historic image for many in Fluvanna.

The Old Stone Jail in downtown Palmyra. It was built in 1828. “It took about two years” to build the jail, said Tricia Johnson, representative of the Fluvanna Historical Society.

Johnson stated that the Old Stone Jail was built in the “Palladian style of architecture, with a balanced, symmetrical front; arch over the door, and mouse-tooth dentil brickwork above the stonework.”

The interior walls are about two inches thick. Although, ¨There were a couple of successful escapes. Both times the prisoners were caught soon after they escaped. One was at his mother’s house eating dinner [when he was caught],” Johnson explained.

What were the conditions like in the 1800s?
According to Johnson, “Jails were overseen by the local and state governments to ensure conditions for the prisoners were humane, but the definition of ‘humane’ has changed a lot over the years,” she followed by saying, “Before there was electricity, I imagine the cells would have been very dark if the shutters on the windows were closed against the cold. I also imagine it could get quite hot and miserable during the summer.”

Was the jail used during the Civil War?
“We assume it was used during the Civil War, but I do not have proof of that. The jailer and the sheriff ran the jail,” Johnson suggested.

Johnson said she does not know exactly how many prisoners were in the jail at any one time. “There were four cells, and each cell was large enough to hold several prisoners. They stopped using the jail in the 1950s,” added Johnson.

You can visit the jail and tour the museum inside. Monday-Friday 8 am to 5 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm. Admission is accepted by making a donation to the institution. For more information, call (434) 589-7910.