Squirrel Cage Jail?

Amy Zeigler and I are the two newest additions to the Travel Iowa team, so we are especially eager to get out and experience our great state. However, when Amy called me a few days before our trip to Council Bluffs to ask if I wanted to visit the “Squirrel Cage Jail” … I had no words!

I had never heard of such a thing!

Without wanting to admit that I had no idea what she was talking about and before I jumped to any conclusions about my new team member’s mental state – I agreed and immediately went to traveliowa.com to do some research.

In addition to a listing on our website, I found this video that gave me a little more information about this style of jail and a better idea of what to expect when we visited:

The Historic Squirrel Cage Jail is one of three remaining examples of the rotary cell jails. This particular one was built in 1885 in Council Bluffs and is in great shape!

Upon arrival, you are greeted by a beautiful brick building and a friendly gentleman by the name of Ed. Ed will give you a quick history lesson about the jail, the type of cells and a lay of the land.

Exterior of the Squirrel Cage Jail

Exterior of the Squirrel Cage Jail

Original intake forms from 1933.

Original intake forms from 1933.

Once you’ve made your way into the holding area, you’re free to explore the first two floors, including the solitary confinement cell, and learn more about the prisoners that were once held there.

Solitary confinement cell was the size of a school gym locker.

Solitary confinement cell was the size of a school gym locker.

Although you can only visit two floors - you can view all three levels of cells.

Although you can only visit two floors – you can view all three levels of cells.

The Squirrel Cage Jail is centrally located in town with other attractions (The Union Pacific Railroad Museum is right next-door), a coffee shop, cafe and plenty of shopping.

Overall – this is an incredible spot. Not only is it a VERY cool piece of history, but also an educational experience you won’t soon forget! I highly recommend this stop and plan to take a trip back with my husband…as soon as I can convince him that it isn’t haunted!

Have you ever visited the Historic Squirrel Cage Jail?

Brooke Miller, Iowa Tourism Office

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