The Old Columbia Jail is one joint you'd never wish to revisit

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COLUMBIA, Ala. (WTVY) — At first glance, it may appear like a charming log cabin.
But for those who "did time" there --- it was far from cozy.

They say history repeats itself.
The Old Columbia Jail is one joint you'd never wish to revisit.

Dennis Erskine is the caretaker of The Old Columbia Jail and says:
"It wasn't a good place to stay…but it's a part of our history."

That history began in the 1860's when Columbia was a thriving riverboat city.

According to Erskine:
"It was built around the time of the Civil War, around the time when Abraham Lincoln would have been close to being President."

During those turbulent times, the town needed a big house - but this slammer was anything but.
"The structure itself had two cells in it. The cells were approximately 10 ft. x 15 ft."

Unlike today's concrete and barb-wired prisons, this pokey was man-made from pine.
"This jail is an old, old wooden structure."

Prisoners would have found it nearly impossible to break out.
"It has extremely thick walls."

Thousands of iron spikes are embedded in the interior walls.
"It was well-detailed, well planned."

Original cast-iron bars still lock-down the 400-pound entry.
"It's extremely reinforced."

Incarcerated inmates had only two windows in three of jail's walls.
"The only ventilation would've come through the bars."

Hot summer months had temperatures inside soaring to over 100 degrees.
"It didn't have electricity at the time."

That meant no air conditioning...No restrooms...And no escape.​
"If you get in, it's not likely that you're gonna be able to get out."

"The Old Columbia Jail has remained a fixture on downtown Columbia's North Street for more than a century and a half."

"It's one of the oldest existing structures of its type not only in Alabama, but the Deep South."

The old jail no longer holds law-breakers --- just treasures of the city's history under lock and key.

Erskine says preserving this landmark is vital for future generations.

"It's important for them to know how crude and how rugged things used to be so they can maybe appreciate what they have now."
Afterall, those who don't know history… may be doomed to repeat it.

The Old Columbia Jail is one of the last remaining 19th century wooden jails in the entire southeast.
It is toured by hundreds of youth and school groups every year.



 
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