Carlinville Historic Jail – a castle like fortress

carlinville old jail

I am not quite sure what you would expect to find when viewing an old jail, but this castle like structure built in 1869 that served as the Macoupin County Jail is not it.  This structure has the look of a fairytale fortress.  Designed by E.E. Meyers the jail was built the Carlinville Chamber of Commerce says, “using the “cannon ball” method which prevented jail breaks by making it nearly impossible to remove the blocks”

The cannon ball method was just that.  With only a few years after the Civil War, remaining cannon balls were literally placed in the walls between layers of stone!

With its Gothic Revival design the jail features a scalloped parapet with multiple arched windows.  The jail sits across from the “million dollar” courthouse that cost much more than anticipated, but provides a lovely building that is still in use today.  E.E. Myers was also the architect for the courthouse that was a pet project of Judge Loomis and part of his reelection campaign.

The jail over the 119 years of use served as an apartment for the jailer and his wife with prisoners in the bottom section.  Over the century plus that the jail was in use only one prisoner escaped, but was caught only a few blocks away.  This historic structure was finally retired when the new county jail was built and dedicated in 1988.

Right now the only view is a drive or walk by because the beautiful old jail is currently being rehabilitated and is not available for tours.

I am amazed at the creativity that went into buildings of the past and just wonder what stories the jailers and prisoners that stayed there would tell.


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  1. spoonriver2015

    wow…that is cool….I agree about the artistry in old buildings….it’s amazing to see the detail and to think about the time invested…they were works of art.

  2. Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl

    Yes indeed the history and beauty draw me in.