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Historic Washington County Jail

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1897, W. B. Reese. 90 S. College Ave.
  • (Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, A Division of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, Holly Hope, photographer)

Constructed ten years before the neighboring Washington County Courthouse (WA8), the Richardsonian Romanesque jail was described in 1897 by the Fayetteville Democrat newspaper as “of stone three feet deep, and walls and ceiling of 6 × 4 oak timber.” The exterior is rusticated sandstone except for a colonnaded wooden porch on the south side. The structure’s verticality is accented by pilasters of a lighter-colored stone than the walls and concluding with crenellations that seen from a distance look rather like flames. A top row of corbels are almost large enough to be machicolations. This eye-catching jail looks both impenetrable and impossible to escape from. It fulfills the Democrat’s promise of February 6, 1896: “the building will be both substantial and attractive.” The main floor served as a residence for the jailer’s family, and the top floor accommodated twenty barred prison cells, each containing one or two metal bunks. A semi-basement, lit by high barred windows, accommodated the coal furnace and a few additional cells.

In 1950, the county built a new jail. For several autumns, the old jail’s picturesque antiquity served Fayetteville’s residents as a Halloween haunted house. The building also has been used for storing county records and as administrative offices for the Washington County Historical Society. It is now used for office space.

Writing Credits

Cyrus A. Sutherland with Gregory Herman, Claudia Shannon, Jean Sizemore Jeannie M. Whayne and Contributors


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Cyrus A. Sutherland with Gregory Herman, Claudia Shannon, Jean Sizemore Jeannie M. Whayne and Contributors, "Historic Washington County Jail", [Fayetteville, Arkansas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Arkansas

Buildings of Arkansas, Cyrus A. Sutherland and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2018, 48-48.

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