Old Capitol Prison

  • American Civil War
  • 2 mins

By Crusader1307

Built in 1800 in Washington, D.C. - the Facility that would become “The Old Prison”, originally served as everything BUT a Prison. Serving as a Tavern and Hotel, it was located at the bottom slope of Capitol Hill. An imposing structure of red brick and wood, “Jenkins Inn” (it' name then) - was well known by many famous “Founding Fathers” and Statesmen. Just before The War of 1812, the name had been changed to The Stelle Hotel. After The British burned The Capitol Building, The Federal Government moved into The Stelle. It officially became The Capitol and Government of The United States until 1819! After The Capitol was rebuilt, the structure became a private Boarding School and then a Boarding House. One time Vice-President John Calhoun died there. By the start of The Civil War (1861), much of the facility had fallen into disrepair. Taken over by The US Army, various rooms were renovated into quarters for Officers and enlisted men. The War Department decided to turn the building into a Prison, and renamed it “The Old Capitol Prison”. A large 25-foot brick wall was constructed around the facility. Not for general military prisoner use, only “special” cases were kept within the facility. Union Officers convicted of insubordination, prostitutes and Privateers were among the first “guests” Later, other “infamous” Tenants such as Dr. Samuel Mudd (convicted of aiding Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth), Belle Boyd (famous Confederate spy), Mary Surratt (the only female “conspirator”in the Lincoln assassination to be hanged), and even Andersonville Rebel Commander Henry Wurtz (the only Confederate tried and executed as a War Criminal). After The War, The Old Capitol Prison would cease it's function as a Prison. Abandoned by The War Department, it would eventually serve as Headquarters for The National Women Committee (which championed the right for American women to vote). With the building of a new building for The US Congress, The Old Prison was razed in 1929. Nothing remains but a Historical Marker.