Historic Albemarle County Jail No. 5

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The Historic Albemarle County Jail, located one block north of Charlottesville's Courthouse Square, was constructed to replace an earlier jail building which was located on Courthouse Square directly west of the courthouse building. The first Albemarle County Jail was built in 1749.

The two story stone building was constructed in 1876 with stones taken from the earlier jail. The brick annex and jail yard was added in 1880 and the jailer's residence added in 1886. Charlottesville architect G. Wallace Spooner designed and built the stone jail and the jailer's house while the architect of the brick annex is unknown. The jail was the site where former Charlottesville mayor J. Samuel McCue was held in 1905 after being tried and convicted for the murder of his wife Fannie, as well as being the site of McCue's subsequent execution by hanging, the last legal hanging in the state of Virginia.

Albemarle County kept prisoners at the jail until 1974. This facility served as the only penitentiary in Albemarle County until 1974 when a new penitentiary was constructed south of Charlottesville.

As of 2021, the jail is closed to the public and efforts to turn it into a museum have not panned out. [1]

In August 2014 the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted to direct county staff to collaborate with the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society to develop a lease for the building. Stephen Meeks from the Historical Society said he expects the museum to have permanent exhibits on the history of Albemarle, Charlottesville and jails. The museum had been expected to cost $1 million.[2]

Construction notes

In 1875, the jail was built by the company started by G. Wallace Spooner.[3] In addition to various commissions for the University of Virginia, Spooner built a new entrance to the Albemarle County Courthouse in 1859 and designed and/or constructed several churches and other buildings in Charlottesville. After his death in 1865, Spooner's son, Gustavus Wallace Spooner, took control of the company.

This accretion of buildings stands as a complete picture of the evolution of penitentiary facilities from the middle part of the nineteenth century into the twentieth century. The Ablemarle County Sheriff's Department has owned and maintained the jail complex since its construction. This facility served as the only penitentiary in Albemarle County until 1974 when a new penitentiary was constructed south of Charlottesville. The jail complex has been used as a storage facility for the County since it closed in 1974.

Notable events

  • 1905 – Former Mayor J. Samuel McCue is hung for murdering his wife. This was the last public execution in Virginia history.[3]

Local Voices, Local History

VIDEO CREDITS: Narrated by Steven Meeks;
Graphic design: Jen Fleischer; Project Manager: Kristin Rourke.


  1. Web. Historic jail to open doors to public, Ted Strong, Daily Progress, Media General, March 26, 2011, retrieved December 4, 2021.
  2. Web. Old Albemarle Jail could become museum, Reuben Jones, Charlottesville Tomorrow, August 10, 2014, retrieved December 4, 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Web. Jailhouse talk: County developing re-use plan, Dave McNair, The Hook, Better Publications LLC, retrieved December 4, 2021. Print. June 20, 2009 , 825, .

External links