Old Brunswick County Jail
Iron bars still cover the
windows of the old jail,
separating freedom from
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Old Brunswick County Jail, North Carolina
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Old Brunswick County Jail, North Carolina
Old Brunswick County Jail
A reminder of law enforcement in days gone by, the
Old Brunswick County Jail is now open to visitors in
historic Southport, North Carolina.
Life in a Jail
In the days when the Old
Brunswick County Jail was
built, jailers and their families
often lived downstairs from
the prisoners.
Other Side of Life in a Jail
The "accommodations" for
the prisoners in the old jail
were a bit more austere.
Graffiti left by Prisoners
A unique aspect of the jail is
the graffiti left behind from its
decades of use to incarcerate
Old Brunswick County Jail - Southport, North Carolina
Where the Good met the Bad...
One of the more unique historic sites in the
Cape Fear region of North Carolina is the Old
Brunswick County Jail in Southport.

Built in 1904 when Southport was still the
county seat for Brunswick County, the old jail
is a two-story brick structure that offers
visitors a chance to look back in time at the
law enforcement history of the 20th century.
The historic structure is maintained by the
Southport Historic Society.

If the photos here of the jail look familiar, that
could be because it was used as a set in the
1986 film "Crimes of the Heart." Actress
Sissy Spacek spent some time filming here
and the old jail is quite recognizable in the
classic movie. Other locations around
Southport also served as settings for the
movie, doubling for the Mississippi town in
which the story was set.

The Old Brunswick County Jail was built at a
now remarkable cost of $6,738 and served
its original purpose for nearly 70 years. Each
cell in the old facility had four bunks along
with a steel wash basin and commode. The
cells themselves were made using cast iron
bars. Similar bars also covered the windows.

One unique aspect of the preserved jail is the
original graffiti, some of it quite artistic, drawn
by prisoners. It is preserved on the second
floor and visitors can look back through time
as they read the musings of prisoners who
spent time behind the brick walls and iron
bars of this facility.

The downstairs of the jail, like most such
facilities of its time, included living space for
the jailer and his family. It is striking to see
toys and other touches of home just one floor
below the cells where prisoners either
served out their sentences or awaited the
outcomes of their trials.

The jail closed in 1971, but was rescued
from slow deterioration in 1984 by the
Southport Historical Society, an active
organization that has done outstanding work
in preserving the history of the charming old
North Carolina community.

Through the efforts of the society and many
donors, the Old Brunswick County Jail was
renovated and returned to much of its original
appearance. A great deal of "elbow grease"
went into the restoration project, which was
unveiled to the public in 2004 to mark the
100th anniversary of the building of the
The jail now serves as the headquarters and
museum of the Southport Historical Society.
It is normally open to visitors two afternoons
each week (Wednesday and Saturday) from
12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. from May until

One interesting side note about the historical
society should be mentioned. It is one of the
few such organizations in the South with its
own cannon for hire! The reproduction 1841
6-pounder is available for hire for both public
and private firings. It has been used to
celebrate events ranging from weddings and
birthdays to grand openings and parties. If
you have an event planned in Southport and
want to make a real "bang" of things, you can
call 1-800-388-9635 for more information.

Also be sure to click here to visit the official
website of the Southport Historical Society.

The Old Brunswick County Jail is located at
Nash and Rhett Streets across from the Old
Smithville Burying Ground in Southport.
Photos by Heather LaBone
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.