The Old Jail, York Village, Maine, ca 1930-1940
Most likely issued between 1930 and 1944 this unused real photo postcard was published by the American Art Post Card Co., of Brookline, Massachusetts and shows the old jail in York Village, Maine. The card is titled at the lower left and numbered toward the lower right as 3016. No photographer is identified.
The old jail is also called the Old York Gaol. It was a former colonial prison located at Lindsay Road and Main Street in the town of York, Maine. It is one of the oldest buildings in the United States with portions of the building dating to 1720. Although the card gives a construction date of 1656, the building shown on the card is a replacement for the original jail; however, it does contain some of the timbers from the 1656 jail. It is open for public tours between May and October.
The one and a half story building is mostly wood frame with sections of stonewall. It has a gambrel style roof that looks a little like some barns. There have been many additions and changes over the years. Originally in 1719 or 1720 there was one stone cell block with walls 2.5 feet thick, lined with oak planking. In the 1730s several first floor chambers were added, a kitchen, dining room, and a parlor space that has a folding wall partition so it can be divided into two rooms.
Sometime around the year 1763 a second floor was added that had three cells and a central chamber. One of those cells was the warden’s room or used as a debtor’s cell and was of better quality than the other rooms. At or about the turn of the 19th century a second stone cell and an extension housing a dining room, parlor and bedchamber for the warden were added.
Originally in the mid to late 1600s to the mid 1700s the building served as the official provincial jail for York County that was at that time part of Massachusetts but is now in Maine. In 1760 it was turned over to the town of York. In response to a demand for better conditions for debtors following the American Revolutionary War there was a last major enlargement. The building has also been used as a school, warehouse, boarding house and most recently a museum. Today the museum has furnished the jail and jailer’s quarters as they were in 1789.
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