Historic Markers Across Alabama

Site of Alabama's First State Penitentiary

Marker ID: ABT 
Location: Wetumpka, AL
County: Elmore
Waymark: None


Side 1:
In January 1839 Governor Arthur P. Bagby and the State Legislature enacted a criminal code authorizing a state penitentiary system for the State of Alabama. A cornerstone was laid in October 1839 on property purchased adjacent to the Coosa River in Wetumpka and construction was begun on the first state penitentiary.

By 1841 the Wetumpka State Penitentiary, a 208 cell structure surrounded by walls twenty-five feet high, was completed at a cost of $84,889. The layout of the buildings were impressive, handsome, and functional. The entrance building facing east was a three-story brick stucture with ornamental cast iron grill work on the portico, balustrades, and double exterior staircase. The long cell block building on the north was two-story with a two-story verandah, exterior stairs and wooden ornamentation. The ornate and elegant administrative building was in the rear. Landscaping, statuary, and gardens were a part of the impressive compound.

The facility was used for 100 years and closed when Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women was completed in December 1942.

Side 2:
A state prison facility has continually been located in the City of Wetumpka since the first state penitentiary was built in 1841. Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, named for "the Angel of Stockades," a zealot for prison refors, was built in 1942 and the first state penitentiary located on this site was closed.

Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women is located one mile north of this site on the east side of US Highway 231 and is the only women's prison in the state.

Other early prisons in Alabama were located in Elmore County including the Speigner Station facilities. A 4,058 acre tract was purchased at Speigner Station on the L&N Railroad and construction was completed on Camp #2 and Camp #3 in 1894.

End of Site of Alabama's First State Penitentiary