Old Jail Museum


As the county seat, Crawfordsville housed the county's unusual rotary jail. Built in 1882, it was the first of seven such jails known to have been built in the U.S. and is the only one still operable. Based on the 1881 patent issued to William Brown and Benjamin Haugh of Indianapolis, the jail is mechanically engineered to provide "maximum security with minimum jailer attention." A two-tiered turntable, containing eight cells per tier, is surrounded by a stationary steel grating, in which there is just one opening. To move a prisoner into or out of a cell, the jailer simply turns a crank until the cell is aligned with the opening.

Activity Details

Activity Type:Trips and Destinations
Discipline:Mechanical
Topic(s):Simple Machines
Grade:
Time:Full day

Fun Fact:The best-selling novel of the 1880s was "Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ," written by Crawfordsville resident Lew Wallace. In addition to his literary activities, Wallace received seven U.S. and two foreign patents. His inventions included several types of railway ties, a rail coupler, a machine for molding blocks for fence posts, and a fishing rod.