The Newport jailhouse was built for the city in 1772 by George Lawton and Oliver Ring Warner, replacing an earlier jail built in 1680 on the same location. The first mention of a jail in Newport was in 1658 when it was decided that "the prison then building in Newport, was to be the prison for the whole colony." Throughout New England in the 17th and 18th centuries, jails served as temporary holding facilities for prisoners passing through the criminal justice system, rather than a form of punishment or an attempt at reform. Most infractions resulted in fines or various forms of public humiliation such as being brought to the center of town and placed in the stocks.
In 1800 the building was enlarged, and in 1888 it was renovated by architect Dudley Newton. According to the Newport Mercury, the jail was "never considered a particularly strong place" and there were a number of notable escapes. During the winter of 1859-1860, a mason incarcerated there removed bricks from around the window and escaped. He was captured when newly fallen snow allowed his tracks to be traced to his hiding place in the Ocean House Hotel.
The building remained the headquarters of the Newport Police Department until 1986, when a new police facility was constructed on Broadway and the original jailhouse was converted into the Jailhouse Inn.
The old Newport County Jail. In keeping with the jail theme, the inn features interesting little artifacts and details throughout, such as iron bars over the lobby front desk, framed articles about famous criminals and signs directing guests to “solitary” and various “cell blocks.” Stories abound of ghosts visiting the Jailhouse, so if you keep your eyes open perhaps you’ll see one, too -- especially if you stay on the 3rd floor. Guests have felt cool gusts of wind when it’s hot outside and no windows are open, and others have heard whispering voices that can’t be explained -- all evidence of paranormal activity..
13 Marlborough Street
Newport, RI 02840 USA
Phone: (401) 847-4638
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