Located at the north end of town on Greene Street in Silverton is the San Juan County Historical Museum Complex. There’s a lot to discover here — a historic jail, an archives building, and the Mining Heritage Center Museum.
WHO KNEW JAIL WAS SO SOPHISTICATED IN 1902?
In the 1800s, the roaring mining town of Silverton had a growing need for law enforcement. Between 1874 and 1902, the town built five jails, most of which were constructed of logs or mortared stone. But after numerous successful escapes, in 1902 the county spent $12,175, for the two-story escape-proof and fireproof facility. The entire jail building kit was delivered to Silverton by train.
As you enter the building, it feels more like a home than a jail. In its heyday, it housed both prisoners and the jailer’s family. You can walk through the bedrooms that display dressing tables, period clothing, and accessories. The parlor has a pump organ and a hutch that houses crystal pieces and dishes. For 1902, the kitchen was truly state-of-the-art with modern conveniences such as running water, an icebox and a wood-burning stove that came with a bread warmer. Inmates were served three meals each day, all prepared by the jailer’s wife.
THE HOLDING CELLS
Located on the second floor are the tool-proof holding cells: 6-by-6-foot walls, about 8 feet tall. Each cell was essentially a cage-like riveted metal box. After the construction in 1902, there were no longer any reported escapes.
EXPLORE ON: STEP INTO THE FACETS OF MINING
Head down to the basement where you will walk through local mining’s past. Navigating through replica mining tunnels,
you will encounter several vintage tools, a precious stone collection, equipment, and intricate displays that paint a
vivid picture of what it was like to be a miner. Visitors learn about the rich mining industry and its contribution to the region and the town of Silverton.
PLAN YOUR VISIT FOR SUMMER 2024!
The San Juan County Historical Society Mining Museum and Jail facility is open May to October. Check the website at sanjuancountyhistoricalsociety.org for more information.