Rededication of historic Old Jail Museum hosted by Historic Tours of America and
Old Town Trolley Tours of St. Augustine, Sept. 26
Commemoration of 127-year-old correctional facility restoration and $5,000 donation to
St. Augustine Police Department and Benevolent Society
The rededication and ribbon cutting at the St. AugustineOld Jail Museum will commemorate the 127-year-old correctional facility and a much-needed facelift culminating a yearlong restoration project funded by its owner and caretaker, Historic Tours of America, Inc.
According to Dave Chatterton, General Manager of Old Town Trolley Tours and Attractions of St. Augustine, the restoration work was more than just cosmetic as Hurricane Irma caused severe damage to the Old Jail Museum last year. Interior steel girders were collapsing, and the entire roof was starting to weaken as parts were torn off by the hurricane. After seeing cracks in the building’s foundation and thick cement walls, Historic Tours of America was quick to initiate a $1 million, major restoration project to save the national treasure. “The Old Jail Museum is back in order including newly recreated interiors of the Sheriff’s office, the jailer’s sleeping quarters, parlor, kitchen, and the prisoner’s cell blocks,” said Chatterton.
An event to commemorate the project completion will be held on Wednesday, September 26 from 4:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. at Old Jail Museum, 167 San Marco Avenue in St. Augustine. The rededication for media and esteemed guests will include various public and civic officials and Ed Swift III, President, Historic Tours of America along with company leaders and cast members. Live music entertainment with the local group, Ball and Chain Gang will include the band in prison stripes costumes. Food and beverage will be provided by award-winning Smokin D’s BBQ.
“During the event, we are honored to present a $5,000 check presentation to St Augustine Police Chief Barry Fox, with St Augustine Police Department and St. Augustine Police Benevolent Organization,” said Chatterton.
“The donation recognizes the longevity of law enforcement in the Nation’s Oldest City and our police heroes,” he said. St. Augustine Police Benevolent Organization is a 501 (c) (4) nonprofit founded more than 50 years ago to aid in the welfare of the public, police employees, and their families.
Additionally, Henry Flagler, known as the father of modern-day St. Augustine, and early Miami and Palm Beach, Florida, will be played by local author and actor John Stavely who will visit with event guests and speak about the initial construction of the Old Jail Museum. Also, Chad Light, a renowned local actor, will be portraying the part of an 1891 deputy sheriff and is slated to arrive at the event on horseback. A ribbon cutting will feature St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce officials.
Initially, the original jail in St. Augustine was built a few blocks away from Henry Flagler’s downtown hotel which was too close for comfort at the time. Flagler asked that the new jail be built at the current and further location. P.J. Pauley Jail Company, the same organization responsible for building Alcatraz in San Francisco, was employed to construct the new prison.
The exterior Romanesque Revival appearance of the current Old Jail Museum was designed as a Victorian house which belies the stark reality of the interior. In 1891, with the opening of his Ponce de Leon Hotel, Flagler wanted to ensure a safe and pleasant environment for his patrons by creating a secure fortress to house criminals. It was important to Flagler that the exterior appearance of the fortress wouldn’t disrupt the majestic atmosphere of the Ancient City.
The historic jail, now on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, served the City of St. Augustine from 1891 until 1953. The Old Jail Museum’s unique history is filled with intriguing stories about the facility’s prisoners and practices. The Jail’s Sheriff Joe Perry had a reputation as being a harsh and strict warden and one of the toughest in the South. The Old Jail Museum also features the history of judicial practices in the 19th century along with weapons and artifacts.
Adults and children are entertained by costumed actors who portray deputies from the early days and gain knowledge about one of just a few prisons of its kind still standing in the U.S. The Old Jail Museum is located at Old Town, along with the Old Town Trolley main station, The Oldest Store Museum, The St. Augustine History Museum, and Gator Bob’s Gift Shop. The Old Jail Museum is open all year except on Christmas Day and is located just north of the downtown district. Free parking is available onsite.
The September 26 event is designed to share the excitement of the Old Jail Museum and St. Augustine’s rich heritage and unique personalities which is an important role for Old Town Trolley Tours and its 16-year community entertainment partnership. Trolleys, shuttle transportation and entertainment stops are featured throughout historic St. Augustine for visitors and residents offering 23 stops with more than 100 points of interest. The trolleys are eco-friendly and noise sensitive to the surroundings and neighborhoods around the City. For more information, visithttp://www.trolleytours.com/
st-augustine or call 904-829-3800.