The last time I visited the Historic Squirrel Cage Jail was back in 2003 when I was a third-grader at Lewis Central. When I saw that the Historical and Preservation Society of Pottawattamie County was doing socially-distanced tours for their 135th anniversary I knew I needed to check it out again!

 

When I arrived, they started the tour with a wine tasting of their appropriately named wines, Doing Time, Behind Bars, Solitary, and Lockdown. The other folks on my tour couldn’t stop raving about how delicious they were!

 

Inmate records at the Squirrel Cage Jail

 

Our group, all masked up, entered the jail and were entertained and intrigued the entire time. Kat Slaughter, the museum director, was an excellent guide that was well versed in telling the real and sometimes humorous story of this historic site. Numerous artifacts, stories, and photographs line the walls and help transport you to another time in history.

 

Tour going up to the second floor of the Squirrel Cage Jail
Emma locked up!

 

Once in the jail, you quickly realize how unique the design and structure is. It was one of 18 revolving jails built and was the only three-story one of its kind. The cells would typically house two adults and once you see the size of the cells, you’ll be shocked! Other parts of the jail include a kitchen, office for the jailer, trustee cells, and women’s quarters.

This site is such a unique part of Pottawattamie County’s history. If you’re interested in touring the museum, you can set up an appointment online or over the phone at (712) 323-2509. If you are interested in paranormal investigations, you’re in luck! Local legend has it that the jail has been haunted for many years and you can book an overnight investigation to check it out for yourself.

 

Group learning about other rotary jails in the U.S.A

 

This post was originally published on September 16, 2020 on the Unleash Council Bluffs blog.