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Recreation & Parks - Museum Division

The Old Jail Museum & Leonardtown Visitor Center

A two-story brick building. A cannon sits in front of the front door.

This building is the sixth jail in St. Mary’s County and the second on this current site. The first two were in St. Mary’s City, built in 1663 and 1676. It then moved to Leonardtown in 1737 to the property across the street from the Courthouse, where the Camalier House now stands. A new structure was built on that site in 1800. The jail moved across the street to the yard of the courthouse in 1856.

Current Building

The building known as the Old Jail Museum was constructed in 1876 to replace the 1858 single-story two-cell building which had been deemed “a nuisance and a public disgrace” by members of the grand jury. The building consists of two rooms downstairs that served as living quarters for the jailer and his family, and three cells upstairs: one of white women, one for white men and one for all African Americans. The rear addition was added in 1928 and provided indoor plumbing.


This jail remained in operation until 1945 when a new facility was built behind the courthouse in response to the rapidly growing population of the county. Some say it was due to the raucous behavior of the sailors at the recently opened naval installations in the county. The current county detention center facility is now located about a mile away on the St. Mary’s County Governmental Center Campus.

An open door with a square barred window in it. The door leads to an exhibit room.

Current Museum

Explore the history of this unique site in charming downtown Leonardtown, where everyone from regular convicts to brave freedom seekers on the Underground Railroad were incarcerated. Operated by the oldest sheriff’s office in the country, the St. Marys’ County Sheriff, this granite block and brick structure retains its original cells and rooms. Come take a tour and learn more about a part of St. Mary’s County history.

A sign haning in front of a brick builing which reads 'The Old Jail Museum and Leonardtown Visitor Center'

Museum Store

The Old Jail Museum features a museum store full of lots of unique and local items, including apparel, souvenirs, kid’s games and activities, Maryland and St. Mary’s County items, local art, ornaments, a wide selection of local books, Leonardtown items and much more. All proceeds go towards supporting the Friends of St. Clement’s Island & Piney Point Museums and the St. Mary’s County Museum Division’s mission of operating the four museums overseen by the division.

A bookshelf in the museum store containing puzzles, books, and other merchandise related to the history of the area.

Leonardtown Visitor Center

The Old Jail Museum is also home to the official Leonardtown Visitor Center, where guests can find information regarding what there is to see, do, where to eat and stay in Leonardtown, St. Mary’s County and the wider Southern Maryland region. Brochures, pamphlets and more information is available.

A borchure rack at the Leonardtown visitor center.

American Association of Museums seal