ABOUT THE HISTORIC JAIL
The Historic Jail, which sits at 117 W San Antonio Street, is the fourth Gillespie County Jail. Built in 1885, it replaced the previous jail which burned the same year.
The first jail was built in 1852, six years after the founding Fredericksburg, this jail was stone, 18 by 18 feet wide with 8 foot high and 2-foot-thick walls. The first jail was located near present-day (2022) City Hall.
A second jail was built in 1859 after the first was proven inadequate. The second jail was located behind the first Gillespie County courthouse, approximately where Nimitz Parkway intersects with South Crockett Streets today. This jail was 30 by 14 feet made of “hard rocks with a vaulted ceiling.” The building had four rooms, three above ground and one underground. The second jail was also inadequate, damp and improperly ventilated.
By 1870, plans were underway for yet another Gillespie County Jail. In 1874, the third Gillespie County jail was finally completed. Eleven years later, in 1885, this third jail burned. Following the fire, the fourth jail was built, today’s Historic Old Jail. This jail was completed in December 1885. The Historic Jail is 25 feet wide, 35 feet deep, and 20 to 22 feet high with two stories.
The ground floor has four rooms, one used for lockup, and the others for the jailer. On the second floor are steel-clad cells. The jail has a heavy solid steel plate door and another one with bars at the front entrance.
Cells in the jail include the lockup cell on the ground floor, which was later used for female inmates. Upstairs has two steel clad cells and a maximum-security cell in the back portion of the second floor.
Surrounding the Historic Jail is a five-foot stone wall, originally topped with embedded broken glass to discourage prisoners from attempting to scale the wall and escape.
The last inmate of the Historic Jail was transported to the fifth Gillespie County jail, located in the third Gillespie County courthouse upon its completion on August 10, 1939.
Today, the Historic Jail is owned and maintained by Gillespie County, under the care of the Gillespie County Commissioners. The Gillespie County Historical Society provides public access and interpretation of the building.