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Northampton Historic Preservation Society

Interpreting life in Northampton County, Virginia through the preservation of historical sites and educational programs.

NHPS Video:

The Last Jail on the Northampton Court Green

The Northampton Historic Preservation Society is fundraising to restore the 1907 Jail for use as a museum about all the jails that once stood on the Northampton Historic Court Green and provide a genealogy research information center. This will add a fifth stop to the "self" tour to include: the NHPS Exhibit in the 1899 Courthouse, the 1731 Courthouse, the ca. 1800 Clerk's Office, and the ca. 1814 Debtors Prison. Your help is greatly appreciated!

For a form to use to send a donation by mail, click here: Donation Form

Northampton Historic Preservation Society Awarded $50,000 Challenge Grant

from The Cabell Foundation to Restore Northampton Court Green 1907 Jail

The Northampton Historic Preservation Society (NHPS) is pleased to announce that The Cabell Foundation has awarded a one-to-one $50,000 challenge grant to support the restoration and preservation of the 1907 jail building on the Northampton County Court Green in Eastville, Virginia. The Society plans to use the 1907 Jail as a museum to recognize the history of all the jails that once stood on the historic court green.

This project will complete a five-building combination of exhibits and buildings reflecting Northampton County governance over the past three hundred years. The existing self-guided tour includes an overview of the Northampton Court Green history in an exhibit room of the 1899 Courthouse (now County Administration Building) and exhibits in the 1731 Courthouse, the Old Clerk's Office (ca.1800) and the Debtors Prison (ca.1814). The addition of the 1907 Jail Museum will become the fifth stop on this educational tour.

Northampton Court Green buildings showcase architectural styles from the last three centuries and provide informative exhibits for students, academicians, and other visitors about activities that took place on the historic court green. With the restoration of the 1907 Jail, the Northampton County Historic Court Green is certain to be one of the most intact and restored court greens in the country. In order to receive The Cabell Foundation challenge grant, NHPS must raise $50,000 in cash and pledges.

The Cabell Foundation challenge grant relies on community involvement through contributions to support preservation efforts! Every gift counts! One-time or monthly donations may be made with the donation button below. Contact Mike Ash at 757-678-0963 or email: [email protected] for more information about the project or to discuss your pledge, contribution, or becoming a sponsor. 

Northampton Historic Preservation Society Receives Grant from Virginia Humanities to Produce Jail Video

The Northampton Historical Preservation Society received a grant to produce and deliver a documentary video to recognize the historical role of the recently demolished 1914 Jail and other Northampton County jails that stood on the Eastville Court Green. The Historical Society is pleased to acknowledge that this video was made possible with the generous support of Virginia Humanities.

The all-volunteer Northampton Historic Preservation Society is continually working to educate the public

about the history of Northampton County, Virginia.

Please consider becoming a member of NHPS or donating to our efforts! 

Premiere of "The Last Jail on the Northampton Court Green" at Cape Charles Palace Theatre

Dr. Carl Lounsbury, Architectural Historian, hosted the July 28th event at the Cape Charles Historic Palace Theatre. The video began in a time when jails were just a holding place for court trials and immediate punishment. In the video, Dr. Lounsbury explained the progression of jail methods of construction, types of prisoners, and the treatment of prisoners.

In the video, Eastville Mayor James Sturgis provided an overview of the economic growth that funded the construction of a cutting edge, early 20th century jail in a rural and isolated Eastern Shore. Transforming attitudes toward incarceration led to better prisoner treatment and healthier conditions. Smaller cells, areas to congregate, and modern utilities were included in the 1914 Jail.

Twentieth century manufacturing techniques improved security. County enforcement officers and leadership provided a tour of the 1914 Jail and discussed how it functioned. The new and improved ideas for the treatment of prisoners introduced in the 1914 Jail served the county for close to 100 years. It was the last jail "built"on the historic Northampton County Court Green.

However, there is still one "last jail" standing on the Eastville Court Green that was built in 1907. The video also features the 1907 Jail as well as the 1914 Jail and the NHPS hopes to restore the 1907 Jail for use as a museum for all the jails that once stood on the historic Northampton Court Green.

To see a ca.1932 salesman's sample of a similar type of system that was used at Alcatraz - CLICK HERE.

1914 Northampton County Jail Locking Mechanism 

The cases were opened before demolition to view the inner locking mechanisms for three cells. The jail had 4 sets of these on two floors. This was "cutting edge" technology for its day. This type of locking mechanism was used about 14 years later at the Indiana jail where John Dillinger escaped and 20 years later at Alcatraz. The last slide at the bottom of the page shows the cell locking controls that would allow for 1, 2 , or 3 cells to open separately or all at one time. Below Mike Ash and Dr. Garrison Brown examine the closing fixtures.

Northampton Historic Preservation Society

P.O. Box 501

Eastville, VA 23347

email: [email protected]