Atlanta's One-Person Jail Cell
Unruly residents were housed in this one-person cell until the Black Maria arrived.
In Victorian-era Atlanta, Georgia, police dealt with their troublemakers one prisoner at a time.
Tucked away in Delta Park, in the Inman Park neighborhood of Atlanta, is the city’s last one-person jail cell. The structure itself looks like an old phone booth. It’s shaped like a small gazebo, with a glass window on top of the structure and a giant padlock in front. The jail was just large enough to hold one person standing up.
Atlanta police had at least four of these one-man jail cells across the city between 1890 and 1905. An arresting officer would confine their prisoner in the lock-up box while they waited for the horse-drawn patrol wagon. The “Black Maria,” as the patrol wagon was known at the time, made regular rounds around the city. When the lock-up boxes were not occupied, police used them to store their helmets, nightsticks, raincoats, and other gear.
Atlanta police stopped using the one-man jail cells around 1905. At that time, the structures were considered inhumane as secondary holding cells.
In 1935, Atlanta sold its last remaining one-man jail cell to Atlanta banker John K. Ottley, who had a collection of Americana antiques. Several years later, the lock-up moved to the Cyclorama in Grant Park where it was displayed with a plaque reading, “Many a miscreant got his first taste of Atlanta hospitality when he was lodged in this locked box to await transportation to roomier quarters.”
In 1974, the one-man jail cell returned to its original location in Inman Park as part of the restoration projects connected to the Inman Park Festival & Tour of Homes. The lockup box reinstallation was a collaboration of the Atlanta Gas Light Co., Atlanta Parks and Recreation Department, Inman Park Restoration, Inc., and the Atlanta Historical Society. Nearly five decades later, the one-man jail cell continues to be a popular stop for Atlanta historians and curious residents.
Know Before You Go
Location: Delta Park, Corner of Edgewood Avenue and Delta Place in the Inman Park neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia
Know Before You Go: The One-Man Jail Cell is free and open to the public. There is plenty of parking around Delta Park and the neighboring streets. While you’re there, check out the historic Civil War marker, which is just a few feet away from the jail.
Cauley, H.M. (2006, January 5). Guides wanted for city strolls: Training begins soon in art of bringing history to life. The Atlanta Constitution, JN3.
Edmunds, Emma. (1981, August 22). Taking a step back in time. The Atlanta Constitution, 57.
Gwin, Yolande. (1974, April 21). Gay nineties lock-up. Antique discovered, returned to original site in Inman Park. The Atlanta Constitution, 131.
Sibley, Celestine. (1974, April 21). Atlanta revives the lockup box. The Atlanta Constitution, 24.
Ancient “lockup” box idle 35 years: Interesting relic of old police methods still found in Inman Park. (1935, June 30). The Atlanta Constitution, 2.
Last lock-up box sold by Atlanta Police Department. (1935, July 17). Nashville Banner, 12.
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