Muscatine County Historic Jail

The overall objective of this project is to rehabilitate, preserve, and put into use the Old Muscatine County Jail which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The jail is a significant part of Muscatine County’s history. Built in 1856-57, it is the only remaining example of Greek Revival government architecture in Muscatine. 

In 2017 the Muscatine County Historic Preservation Commission (MCHPC) hired Doug Steinmetz, AIA, to complete a Rehabilitation and Adaptive Use study funded by a CLG Grant. Steinmetz completed a facility assessment and developed recommendations for a three-phase project plan. Phase I involved stabilizing the structure and bringing it up to code. This work was completed with funding provided by Muscatine County.

Historic Jail exterior3
Historic Jail exterior2
Historic Jail exterior1
museum concept
  1. History of Historic Jail
  2. Friends of Historic Muscatine County Jail
  3. Planned Development of the Historic Jail
  4. Museum Concept

The Muscatine County Jail building constructed in 1856-57 included a sheriff’s residence and office in addition to the jail cells. This building was initially nominated and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 because it was Muscatine's only representative of the Greek Revival or Federal style of architecture. The Historic Jail also qualifies to be listed because its construction date falls into Muscatine's Early Settlement historic context. 

Contractors for the jail project were Hine and Mulford. They built it for an estimated $12,500. There has been little alteration to the exterior of the building since it was constructed. The building continued to function as the primary county penal facility until residents voted to approve building a new facility in 1907. At that time, it appears the old jail was reused as a heating plant for the courthouse, with the boiler located in the basement. A brick-lined tunnel runs from the old jail, under Fourth Street, to the county courthouse. The tunnel provided a passage for steam pipes to run from the boiler at the old jail to the newly constructed courthouse. The courthouse continues to receive its heat and cooling from this location although the source has been switched to geothermal with the controls and mechanical equipment located in the Historic Jail basement.

The two-story (south) portion of the Historic Jail, facing 4th Street, was originally used as the Sheriff's office and residence. Since 1907, that portion of the building has been used for storage but is currently empty. The one-story rear (north) portion of the building originally housed the jail cells but these have since been removed. Until recently, the back portion was utilized as County Maintenance storage and repair, and for related office space.  Currently this space is empty pending renovation into the Muscatine County Historic Preservation Meeting and Conference Center.