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A Survivor for 152 Years

Chambersburg’s Old Jail
Chambersburg’s Old Jail
samuel hoff

The historic past of Chambersburg’s Old Jail plays a significant role in the history of Pennsylvania. After opening in 1818 and closing in 1970 the jail was the longest in use in Pennsylvania. It’s one of a few buildings surviving Chambersburg’s burning by Confederate Forces in 1864. The jail also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

The original two-story brick building was 84 feet wide and 48 feet deep with a slate covered hipped roof topped by a small cupola. It was initially the sheriff’s residence. A three-story cellblock was added in 1880 with 19th century solitary cells and a dungeon. The jail yard is separated into two sections and surrounded with a 20-foot high wall. Its gallows still stand in the jail courtyard.

Called the Old Jail, it houses a museum, genealogical library in addition to early drug store and pioneer kitchen. It is owned and operated by Franklin County Historical Society of Kittochtinny. Volunteers of the historical society conduct tours during the scheduled hours.

Address
Chambersburg’s Old Jail
175 East King Street
Chambersburg PA
Museum hours
April – October
Tuesday – Saturday 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Remainder of year
Tuesday, Thursday – Saturday 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Closed major holidays
Cost
Museum
$5, ages 6-17 $4, family rate $10
Library
$5

Chambersburg is a borough of 20,268 in the south central region of Pennsylvania. It is 15 miles north of Maryland within 100 miles of Baltimore and Washington D.C. Located in a valley next to the Appalachian Mountains, it has 579 farms covering 29,916 acres raising barley, maize, and maize. The surrounding area has a large Amish and Mennonite population.

Native Iroquois, Lenape and Shawnee Indians lived and hunted in the area during the 18th century. Scots-Irish immigrant Benjamin Chambers settled Chambersburg in 1730. He built a gristmill and sawmill at the 26-foot high waterfall where Falling Spring Creek and Conococheague Creek meet. The falls powered mills for the nearby settlement of Falling Spring. The Conococheague Creek running through the center of town is a tributary of the Potomac River.

The first courthouse was in John Jack’s tavern at the town square in 1784, until a permanent courthouse was built in 1793. Fort Chambers was erected in Chambersburg during the French and Indian War to protect its occupants. A log-construction replica may be visited at Fort Chambers Park. Michaux State Park surrounds Chambersburg, its 1,125-acres providing outdoor activities including fishing, hiking and hunting.

Chambersburg is a 5 hour drive of 300 miles from Rochester NY. Drive south from Rochester on route 15 into Pennsylvania past Williamsport to Harrisburg. Exit onto US 81 south then west on route 30 (Lincoln Hwy) and north on 2nd street. Follow signs to Chambersburg’s Old Jail.

One visitor to ‘Old Jail’ made the following comment.
“It is definitely worth the trip if you are in Gettysburg (about 20 miles away) or that area.”