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Old Gaol, York

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#15 of 18 in Things to do in York
The Old York Gaol is a former colonial prison at Lindsay Road and Main Street in York, Maine. Its oldest portion dating to about 1720, it is one of the oldest prison buildings in the United States, and one of the oldest public buildings in the state of Maine. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968. It is owned by the Museums of Old York and is open for tours between May and October.Description and historyThe gaol is a largely wood frame structure that has had a long evolutionary history of growth and change, and presently appears as a 1-1/2 story gambrel-roofed structure that is partial clapboarded, with sections of stone wall. The oldest portion of the building, dating to 1719 or 1720, is a stone cell block containing a single cell, with stone walls 2.5ft thick lined on the inside with oak planking. About 1736 several first-floor chambers were added, including a kitchen, dining room, and parlor space that has a folding partition wall (added late in the 19th century), so that it be divided into two separate rooms. In c. 1763 the second floor was added, with three cells and a central chamber. One of the cells, surmised to be intended for use as a debtor's cell or warden's room, is of noticeably finer quality. Arount the turn of the 19th century a second stone cell was added to the first floor, along with an extension including a dining room, parlor, and bedchamber for the warden.The original portion of the jail was constructed using timbers from the earlier York jail built in 1656. The building served as the official provincial jail for York County (then part of Massachusetts) until 1760, when it was turned over to the town of York. The building's last major enlargement was made in response to a demand for better conditions in debtor's prisons after an increase in debtors following the American Revolution. After 1879 the building was used as a school, warehouse, and boarding house until 1900 when it opened as a colonial museum of relics. The Old Gaol continues to be a museum and reflects the jail and jailer's quarters as they were in 1789.
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  • This is a local curiosity, the original gaol/jail for the oldest town in Maine. It is a preserved 17th century gaol that is interesting historically and a vivid contrast with our times.  more »
  • There is a pillar in front of the Old Gaol, which I assume people were put in for punishment. The site is well maintained and easily found.  more »
  • Construction of the stone dungeon began in 1719 and was subsequently extended at various times. Thanks to the foresight of residents, it was saved from demolition and opened as a museum in 1900. It is...  more »
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