Northampton Historic Preservation Society

Enriching lives through the preservation of historical sites and culture in Northampton County, Virginia.


NHPS Video

“The Last Jail on the Northampton Court Green”


Northampton Historic Preservation Society
Receives Grant from Virginia Humanities



The Northampton Historical Preservation Society received a grant to produce and deliver a documentary video to recognize the historical role of the recently demolished 1914 Jail and other Northampton County jails that stood on the Eastville Court Green.  The Historical Society is pleased to acknowledge that this video was made possible with the generous support of Virginia Humanities.

 
The all-volunteer Northampton Historic Preservation Society is continually working to educate the public about the history of Northampton County, Virginia. 

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Premiere of "The Last Jail on the Northampton Court Green" at Cape Charles Palace Theatre

Dr. Carl Lounsbury, Architectural Historian, hosted the July 28th event at the Cape Charles Historic Palace Theatre. The video began in a time when jails were just a holding place for court trials and immediate punishment.  In the video, Dr. Lounsbury explained the progression of jail methods of construction, types of prisoners, and the treatment of prisoners. Eastville Mayor James Sturgis provided an overview of the economic growth that funded the construction of a cutting edge, early 20th century jail in a rural and isolated Eastern Shore. Transforming attitudes toward incarceration led to better prisoner treatment and healthier conditions. Smaller cells, areas to congregate, and modern utilities were included in the 1914 Jail.  



Twentieth century manufacturing techniques improved security. County enforcement officers and leadership provided a tour of the 1914 Jail and discussed how it functioned.  The new and improved ideas for the treatment of prisoners introduced in the 1914 Jail served the county for close to 100 years. It was the last jail "built"on the historic Northampton County Court Green.



However, there is still one "last jail" standing on the Eastville Court Green that was built in 1907.  The video also features the 1907 Jail as well as the 1914 Jail and the NHPS hopes to restore the 1907 Jail for use as a museum for all the jails that once stood on the historic Northampton Court Green.


 


To see a ca.1932 salesman's sample of a similar type of system that was used at Alcatraz - CLICK HERE.

1914 Northampton County Jail Locking Mechanism 

The cases were opened before demolition to view the inner locking mechanisms for three cells.  The jail had 4 sets of these on two floors.  This was "cutting edge" technology for its day. This type of locking mechanism was used about 14 years later at the Indiana jail where John Dillinger escaped and 20 years later at Alcatraz. The last slide at the bottom of the page shows the cell locking controls that would allow for 1, 2 , or 3 cells  to open separately or all at one time. Below Mike Ask and Dr. Garrison Brown examine the closing fixtures.

 
 

Northampton Historic Preservation Society

P.O. Box 501

Eastville, VA 23347

email: nhps100@gmail.com