South Carolina Department of Archives and History
National Register Properties in South Carolina

Lancaster County Jail, Lancaster County (208 W. Gay St., Lancaster)
S1081772900201 S1081772900202 S1081772900203 S1081772900204 S1081772900205
Left Oblique Facade Detail Right Oblique Right Elevation Interior
Cell Detail

The 1823 Lancaster County Jail is a significant example of Robert Mills architecture and reflects his innovative ideas on the proper construction of penal institutions. The jail is a stuccoed brick building of three stories with Palladian style stone quions and stringcourses. It features a gable roof, iron grates, first floor windows and doors within recessed arches, and gable parapets with coping and a raised center section. Although Mills never signed his buildings and often failed to sign his plans, a number of building characteristics and facts substantiate the 1823 jail is his design. Some characteristics of Mills’ work are the following: Mills advocated free circulation of air in jail construction, and this was achieved in the Lancaster County Jail by placing barred cages for prisoners in the middle of the room; the absence of a dungeon reflects a Mills innovation in penal reform; classifying prisoners according to their crime was a Mills recommendation, and this was achieved in the Lancaster County Jail by placing prison rooms for debtors on the first floor and other cells were on the second floor; Mills was a member of the Board of Public Works for the State of South Carolina from 1820-1830, and he was referred to in public documents of that period as the “State Engineer and Architect.” Listed in the National Register August 9, 1971; Designated a National Historic Landmark November 7, 1973.

View the complete text of the nomination form for this National Register Property.

Most National Register properties are privately owned and are not open to the public. The privacy of owners should be respected. Not all properties retain the same integrity as when originally documented and listed in the National Register due to changes and modifications over time.

Images and texts on these pages are intended for research or educational use. Please read our statement on use and reproduction for further information on how to obtain a photocopy or how to cite an item.

Images provided by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.