Old Monterey Jail – Monterey, California - Atlas Obscura

Old Monterey Jail

This remarkably simple jail went over a century without an escape. 


In its 100 years of use, no one ever escaped from the Old Monterey Jail, probably owing to the copious amounts of granite and iron used in its construction.

After California achieved statehood, the town of Monterey was the county seat and as part of its growing pains the town began to see the need for a substantial jail. Accordingly, in 1854 a stout stone building was constructed next door to Colton Hall, which had become the county courthouse. The new jail was built of solid granite, and using the firmest iron work they could produce at the time. So concerned with sturdiness, the builders used almost no wood in the jail’s construction. The cells each had a window, but they were covered with perforated iron plates that provided the bare minimum of light and air to nourish the inmates.

The jail was modernized in 1935 with the addition of a heating and ventilation system and concrete floors. It continued in regular use until 1956, just over a century after its construction. The last entry in the jail log was made on July 31, 1959, and the jail was officially closed. The following year it was opened to the public as part of the Colton Hall museum, the function it continues to serve today. Visitors can now see the conditions the original prisoners endured via recreated scenes in each of the cells.   


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