Newburyport 'Old gaol' opens for tours on Sunday

Courtesy photoNewburyport’s “old gaol” across from the Bartlet Mall will be open for free tours this Sunday afternoon.

NEWBURYPORT  – If you’ve ever wondered about that iron-spiked wall across from the Bartlet Mall, you’ll have a chance to step inside on Sunday, June 9. The owners of the 1825 Essex County Gaol complex, architect Charles Griffin and his wife Gillian, are providing free tours of the “old gaol” building and grounds from 1 to 4 p.m.

The gaol served as a jail from 1825 to 1918. Built of massive Rockport granite blocks, its eight cells, with iron-barred windows and doors, remain intact. Tours will be led by the Griffins and Reg Bacon of the Newburyport Preservation Trust.

The jail has been privately owned since 1923 and is rarely open to the public. Sunday’s tours were inspired by the Griffins’ curiosity to know if there is interest in the jail and its history.

“We love this building and have worked on it for more than 30 years,” Gillian Griffin said in a press release. “We’re private people, but also wondered if others would enjoy seeing it. I hope we have many visitors on Sunday.”

The jail complex includes two additional granite buildings, the jail keeper’s house, a private residence, and a carriage barn, now office space, which can be viewed from the courtyard. The Griffins have owned and rehabilitated the complex since 1987, receiving the Preservation Trust’s Landmark Preservation award in 2017 for their work.

The Old Gaol is at 10 Auburn St. There is a limit of 15 people for each tour. The free tours will be given this Sunday at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30, and 3 p.m. (Limit 15 people/tour.) Families with children are welcome.