Iowa - Council Bluffs

Council Bluffs

The old Pottawatomie County Jail is notable for being of a rare type known as a "squirrel cage" or rotary jail. The principle was sound - prevent prisoners from organizing, rioting, or escaping through overpowering the jailer by having a single opening serve multiple pie-wedge cells. The entire pie of cells was on a rotating platform so that only when a cell was rotated in position for its door to match the jail door could a prisoner leave the cell. Though great for prison management, and perhaps a bit expensive to operate, the real drawback of this was the complex machinery that apparently caught up a lot of limbs and other inmate parts (perhaps even intentionally, if a prisoner were desperate enough to leave). Cells were fixed in place and new openings cut to try to continue to use the buildings as jails, but ultimately the rotary jail didn't survive the first half of the 20th century, and most of the buildings are gone.

The north (Willow Avenue) side of the former Carnegie Library, now the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.

The main, east (Pearl Street) side.

Two more old Council Bluffs buildings. The First Baptist Church dates to 1924.

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