Salem Jail (the older portion) was built with county money in 1813 on the corner of St. Peter and Bridge Streets, for $80,000, with a house for the keeper. It was thoroughly remodeled and enlarged in 1885.
A state mandated rehabilitation of the main building was completed over a 12 to 18 month period in 1980, after inmates sued over needed improvements primarily concerning fire safety.
The three story brick residence adjacent was used by the Sheriff who was also the keeper of the jail. It was known as the "jailer's house" or the "sheriff's house." The building had some interesting details. It featured a hipped roof and the work of Samuel McIntire, reknown woodworker. After being used by the sheriff for years, it was being used more recently as offices.
The "jailer's house" suffered damage from a four-alarm fire in 1999, thought to be the work of vandals. The city received a state grant to fix up and stabilize the jailer's house in 2000.
In late 1990, after the new Middleton Jail was completed this older building was shuttered.
In 2009, the Salem Jail was converted to condominiums. A prison-themed restaurant opened in the old jail on Sept. 2010, called Great Escape Restaurant. The Great Escape Restaurant closed in 2013. A new restaurant, A & B Burgers next opened in that spot. In 2015, A & B Burgers moved to a larger space in Beverly, Ma. A new bar offering old-school arcade games, craft beer & playful eats called the Bit Bar opened at this location in June of 2016.
For information on the Old Witch Jail from the 1700's, follow this link.
Postcard image courtesy of CardCow.com
Vertical File in Salem Collection - Salem Jail
Architecture in Salem by Bryant Tolles, p. 114-115
Annals of Salem by Felt, vol. II, p. 468-69
"Jail turned restaurant opens"(Great Escape) Salem News, Sept. 21, 2010, p.?
"The dungeon left behind; Officials cut ribbon in an historic event" Salem Evening News, Dec. 15, 1990, p. 1
"$900,000 jail rehabilitation begins" Salem Evening News, May 21, 1980, p. ?
"Prisoners transferred to new jail" Salem Evening News, Feb. 18, 1991, p. 1
"Cause still unknown in jail building fire" Salem Evening News, July 12, 1999, p. 1
"Locked into history: Salem Jail makes ten most endangered historic resources list" Salem Evening News, Sept. 26, 2000, p. A1
"Old jail on former Prison Lane has new look and new purpose" (letters to the editor) Salem News, Nov. 26, 2010, p. 8