Squirrel Cage Jail in Gallatin, Missouri


Known as the “squirrel cage jail,” this structure is one of only three of its kind left in the country. Built in 1889 and made entirely out of steel, its rotating design demonstrates what was considered an innovative method for incarceration while at the same time harkening back to the olden days when it was fine to keep prisoners in dungeon-like conditions.

Rotary jails first came about in the late 19th century, largely in the Midwest. They featured wedge-shaped cells arranged around a central hub, which could spin thanks to a hand-cranked mechanism beneath the cells. That rotation meant that the door could only be accessed from a single opening.

Gallatin’s rotary jail remained in use until 1964, when the cage was dismantled for safety reasons. The building was still used as a jail until 1975. It later reopened as a visitor center, which includes tours of the original jail facility.

The tour also takes you into the adjoining sheriffʻs residence, which has displays about Jesse James, public executions, and other local characters and history. 

 





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