Wooden prison from 1888, claiming to be the oldest in the United States (8 photos)

Category: Nostalgia, PEGI 0+
13 June 2024

Wood is a good material, but not the most durable. However, there are exceptions. And wooden structures continue to stand quietly, while houses made of brick and concrete happily turn into ruins.

And as a testament to the quality of the wood and the skill of the builders, it is the oldest surviving wooden prison in South Dakota and possibly the United States.

In 1982, while demolishing the old Lambert home in Hot Springs, William Soper made a unique discovery. Inside the house was a much older wooden building with unusual design features. The building had an area of ​​about 5 square meters and was constructed entirely from solid pine boards laid horizontally and fastened with nails. Rows of wire were laid between the boards. Metal bars covered three small windows and one door.

Soper discovered the old wooden Hot Springs jail, believed to have been built between 1885 and 1888. Recognizing the building's historical significance, he donated it to the City of Hot Springs and moved it to its current location on River Street in April 1983. Historical markers on the building indicate that it is the oldest surviving wooden prison in South Dakota and possibly the entire country.

More than 500 beams were used to construct the walls, ceiling and floor of the building. Thick wire was added to prevent prisoners from sawing through the walls. When Anna Lambert purchased the building in 1910, she removed the cell partitions and converted it into a house, effectively enclosing the prison in a timber frame.

Although old prison records are lost, newspaper reports from 1895 indicate that Martha Jane Cannary, aka Calamity Jane, a famous female scout who fought in the Indian Wars with the natives, may have spent a night in this prison.

Calamity Jane

According to an article in the Hot Springs Star, Jane was in town from November 10 to November 13, 1895. She came to meet old friends and sell photographs. As expected, she started a drunken brawl in several hot spots in the city. Jane spent the evening of November 12 in the Bodega saloon, getting increasingly drunk and becoming more and more unrestrained. So much so that the mayor of Hot Springs sent the police chief to keep an eye on her. When the saloon closed, Jane tried to "borrow" someone else's horse to ride.

At the mayor's direction, the police chief suggested she spend the night in jail so she could sleep it off. She did so, and, to everyone's relief, Jane left town the next morning. And the old wooden prison, discovered by pure chance, became a historical building and an object of pride for the townspeople.

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