Americas Oldest Wooden Jail




Clean up Begins in the old jail


Nancy Jenkins (Standing) & Deb Ahern Sweep


Derek & Jim Ellis (Barnstable's Black Smith)








The Old Jail is OPEN by Appointment  During Off Season

Appointment call 508-771-2725


2009 Season

May 1st through November 15th

Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10AM-3PM



3353 Main St Barnstable, MA.

Phone: 508-362-8521




History of the "Old Gaol"

Structural, documentary and archaeological evidence suggests that the Jail was constructed circa 1690-1700 by Barnstable County as ordered by the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colony Courts and under the leadership of Sheriff Bassett. The Barnstable Jail was constructed on a piece land just west of the town center. The jail was moved around and attached to the rear of an early 18th century, two-story, five-bay house sometime later in the early 18th century. There was evidence to support this from a court directive  written in 1757 ordering the county of Barnstable to erect a new "gaol". The new "gaol" was never erected and the old jail was improved and used to until at least 1820 until the new stone jail was built in the center of town.


The Jail is on the Move

In 1968, Miss Holway of Old Jail Lane wanted a new barn built on her property to replace an ancient barn that had served it's purpose. Miss Holway was thinking of having the old barn moved or destroyed. Fortunately, Miss Holway knew the work by Barnstable Country Chief Deputy Sheriff Louis Cataldo. He had created Tales of Cape Cod in 1949 and had begun recording oral histories from older Cape Codders who were passing away at an alarming rate carrying their memories of "old Cape Cod" to the grave.


Miss Holway brought Mr. Cataldo to the ancient barn to show him what she had found inside the building. He was thrown back and amazed when Miss Holway showed him a solid plank that framed the small cell of the Old Gaol, there were engravings hidden away for nearly three centuries done by a prisoner who had spent time in the crude, inhospitable lockup. There on the wooden plank was the following


"W. Bartlett 13d October 1698 and 27d he was let out"


With this new evidence it was the effort of Mr. Cataldo to save the building. Miss Holway needed a new garage and needed the building moved. Mr. Cataldo hired historian and archeologists James Deetz, assistant Director of Plimouth Plantation for confirmation of the findings. A town meeting was held and red tape was cleared for the move. On July 15, 1971 the official announcement was made that the old jail needed to be moved. on March 1, 1972 building began its voyage of being moved. It was broken into sections and moved over several months. It's trek took it along old kings highway, up Cobb's Hill and placed on the grounds of the Trayser Museum. On September 18th 1972 a meeting was held and with move  and the archeological dig complete everything was in order and  given the stamp of approval by town officials.


Vandals Strike

On March 4, 1972 somebody torched the "Old Gaol". Barnstable's volunteer fire department arrived quickly and was able to save most of the building and after the smoke  cleared there was fire damaged to the inside of the back of the building.


The "Old Gaol" Today

Over the years the jail remained open for people to come and visit and look around when the Trayser Museum was open. In 2004 The Coastguard Heritage (CGHM) Museum moved into the Trayser Museum building. It is then when the old jail started to be closed due to lack of manpower to over see people who walked  through the "old jail". Derek Bartlett the Founder of Cape And Islands Paranormal Research Society had a meeting with the members of the (CGHM) and proposed that with his efforts as well as his team that they would open the doors to the old jail. It was accepted by the members and today you can visit the Oldest Wooden Jail In the United States of America.




Deb Ahern Washing the Windows Deb & Nancy Sweeping, AGAIN!!

Bill Colette (President of CGHM) working to get the jail ship-shape

Nancy Jenkins & Derek Bartlett  maneuver a 17th curio cabinet, to make room for visitors



Help is Needed to Restore and Preserve the Old Jail


Come visit the "Old jail" on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10AM-3PM. There is no set donation amount for entry, every penny is accepted. It is CAIPRS' goal and the goal of the CGHM & Trayser Museum to bring the old jail back to it's original appearance. We are also looking for wood circa 1600-early 1800 to be donated to The Trayser Museum and may be used to restore the "old jail". If you know anyone who would be interested please have them contact Derek Bartlett at 508-771-2725 or write . We are in the process of  making a plaque dedicated to the people who make a significant donation, which will be hung on the wall of the old jail.


Inside the Jail Today

The outside (Original building had iron bars and a different front)

"W. Bartlett 13d October 1698 and 27d he went out"

The Cell Doors on the 2nd floor


Come Visit The Old Jail

Open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10AM-3PM



3353 Main St Barnstable, MA.

Phone: 508-362-8521