Old Cumberland County Prison

8933 km

37 E High St Carlisle

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The Old Cumberland County Prison, often referred to as the Old Carlisle Jail, was built in 1854.  It was in operation until 1984, when a new prison was built on the outskirts of town.

Supposedly styled after Carlisle, England's Citadel castle, the Old Carlisle Jail building housed prisoners for 130 years a block away from the Carlisle Square.  The site, located on the corner of North Bedford and West High Streets, was home to a town jail starting in 1753 with the current structure dating to right before the Civil War.

The Old Jail held public executions on its grounds and had several inmates escape and disappear into the town, but most were quickly re-captured.  

Famous local inmates housed in the jail were:

  • Charles Saylards was imprisoned and publicly executed here in 1893 for killing a local police officer, George Martin.  Officer Martin remains the only Carlisle cop killed in the line of duty to this day.  Hundreds of tickets were sold to Saylards hanging and 1000 more locals showed up outside the prison's walls to witness the event.
  • Georgia Ann Schneider was imprisoned here after she was accused of killing notorious local madame, Bessie Jones, in 1972.  Schneider, a prostitute herself and six-months pregnant, later escaped but was re-captured.  She was eventually acquitted of the crime but served time for her escape.

After prisoners were moved to the new Cumberland County prison in the 1980s, the building was renovated and became home to several county departments.  Although the idea that the prison was inspired by an English castle in Carlisle's sister city was partially debunked in 1983, the idea remains a part of local lore.  Because of purported paranormal activity due to the deaths that occurred within its walls, the television show Ghosthunters filmed the episode "Innocent until Proven Dead" here in 2015.

See our suggestion for using this building as a photo opp.