ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Old Columbia Jail in Columbia, Alabama
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Old Columbia Jail in Columbia, Alabama
Old Columbia Jail
The historic Old Columbia Jail dates from the early
1860s and is one of the last remaining 19th century
wooden jails in the South.
Old Columbia Jail
One of the oldest standing
jails in Alabama, the little
wooden jail in Columbia had
only two cells.
Walls Studded with Spikes
The builders of the jail used
iron spikes to strengthen the
walls to prevent its inmates
from escaping.
Jail from the Civil War era
The little wooden jail had two
windows in three of its walls
to allow light and ventilation.
Old Columbia Jail - Columbia, Alabama
Landmark of the Civil War Era
Historical Marker at Jail
The historical marker by the
front door of the Old Columbia
Jail tells the story of the little
structure and the town it once
Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
One of the last standing structures of its type
in the Deep South, the historic Old Columbia
Jail is a landmark in
Columbia, Alabama.

The little wooden jail was built during the
early 1860s, likely when Columbia was a
Confederate military post and commissary
center. The town was then a thriving riverboat
port that handled commerce for a large part
of the Wiregrass area of Southeast Alabama.

The term "Wiregrass" is taken literally from a
tough wiry grass found in the pine woods of
South Alabama, South Georgia and North

One of the oldest towns in the region,
Columbia was one of the largest at the time
of the Civil War. Located on high ground
overlooking the scenic Chattahoochee River,
the community had stores, warehouses,
homes and churches. And in those turbulent
times it also found need for a new jail.

The unique wood structure features a strong
door on its front side. Secured by heavy iron
hardware and reinforced by iron spikes or
studs, it would have been difficult to break.

Each of the other three sides has two
windows. These gave light and ventilation to
the inmates incarcerated inside the jail. They
were, however, secured by heavy iron bars.

Inside the jail were two cells for inmates.
Measuring 10 by 15 feet, these cells were
strong and, despite the ventilation from the
windows, would have been hot and
miserable placed during the hot summer
months when temperatures in the little jail
would have soared to well over 100 degrees.

To provide extra security against escape
attempts, iron spikes were driven into the
interior walls at intervals of only two inches.

The Old Columbia Jail served the community
for many years and, remarkably, survived
even after its useful days came to an end. As
a result, it is one of the last standing original
wooden jails not only in Alabama, but in the
entire Deep South.

By the time of the Bicentennial of American
Independence in 1776, the Old Columbia Jail
had fallen into disrepair. During that time of
national pride in heritage, however, the
community undertook the restoration and
repair of the facility. Directed by the Columbia
Women's Club and Columbia Bicentennial
Committee, the project resulted in the return
of the facility to its original condition.
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The civic effort was so well done, in fact, that
the jail remains in outstanding condition
today, despite the passage of 35 years since
the restoration project.

A historical marker placed in front of the
facility by the Historic Chattahoochee
Commission in 1978 tells both the story of
the old jail as well as of the town of Columbia

One of a number of restored historic
structures in Columbia, the old jail serves as
a unique reminder of the days when the
charming town was a vital and busy river port.
Other points of key interest include the
Baptist and Methodist churches, the Purcell-
Killingsworth House and the nation's
southern-most original covered bridge, which
is located across the river in the community
of Hilton, Georgia.

The Old Columbia Jail is located on North
Street in downtown Columbia. To reach the
landmark from Highway 52 (Church Street),
just turn south on Main, travel one block to
North and turn right. The jail will be on your
left. Its exterior can be viewed anytime.