Lancaster County Jail

208 W. Gay St., Lancaster, South Carolina

Significant as an example of Robert Mills' public buildings (particularly the construction of jails) in the first half of the nineteenth century; significant both for its architectural elements and its design. -- Historic American Buildings Survey


Lancaster County Jail

Photo from the Historic American Buildings Survey

View photos at Library of Congress


Street View 


This is the oldest building still standing in Lancaster County. It predates the Historic Lancaster County Court House by five years.

Pre-1823 -- Designed by noted architect Robert Mills. Willis W. Alsobrook is the original contractor of the Lancaster jail. The total cost of construction is $8,000.

1823 -- The jail opens.

1830 -- Stocks and whipping posts are used here until 1830. Scaffolds are erected on jail grounds as needed for hangings.

1860s -- Union soldiers attempt to burn the Lancaster jail down at the end of the Civil War. They soak turpentine in cotton balls, set them afire and throw them on the roof, but the jail is saved by arriving Confederates.

1971 -- The building, which is still in use as a jail almost 150 years after being built, is designated a landmark by the National Register of Historic Places.

Dec. 27, 1979 -- A fire breaks out in the ancient building. Eleven prisoners died of smoke suffocation. Shocked, county officials determin to build a new law enforcement center with modern facilities. The old jail was insured for only half the cost of renovation, but there is no thought of demolishing it.(SOURCE:

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on August 9, 1971
Reference number
Areas of significance
Architecture; Social History
Levels of significance
National; State
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic function
Correctional facility
Current function
Correctional facility
Period of significance
Significant year

Update Log 

  • August 31, 2018: New photos from Joseph Hinson
  • September 18, 2014: New Street View added by Michael Miller
  • April 29, 2013: Updated by Joseph Hinson: Added a detailed history, multilpe sources and one or two new photographs.
  • April 29, 2013: Photo imported by Joseph Hinson