Historic jails offer a peek at life behind bars in the 1800s

Here are a few of the old Missouri jails open to visitors:

  • Nevada: The 1860s stone jail is owned and operated by the Vernon County Historical Society as the Bushwhacker Jail Museum, on North Main Street near the separate Bushwhacker Museum, which recalls the Civil War era. Contact: (417) 667-9602. On the Net: www.bushwhacker.org.
  • Farmington: The St. Francois County Jail downtown was built of stone in 1870, and it had unusual amenities: indoor plumbing and central heat. An escape in the 1930s involved a blast that propelled part of the north wall several blocks away, historians say. Contact: (573) 756-3615.
  • Springfield: Built in 1891, the Calaboose is the oldest structure owned by the city of Springfield. It has a police museum on the first floor and is also a working police substation — which requires tours to be scheduled in advance at (417) 837-5868.
  • East Prairie: Tucked in southeast Missouri’s Mississippi County, the combination City Hall and jail was a Works Progress Administration project dating to 1935. Today it houses the Historical Museum of Mississippi County and is open most weekday afternoons and by appointment. Contact: (573) 649-3057.
  • Liberty: The Liberty Jail, built in 1833 at what is now 216 N. Main St., is a place of significance to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church’s first prophet and president Joseph Smith was imprisoned there with five other men in the winter of 1838-1839. The site includes a visitors center; free guided tours are offered seven days a week. Contact: (816) 781-3188. On the Net: www.libertychamber.com.