ELKADER, Iowa — The Clayton County Jail was built in 1870, and served the county well, housing prisoners until the 1980’s when a new jail was built. In 2006 the County was ready to tear down the old jail.
Julie Carlisle-Kane and Tim Kane stepped in and bought the building for $200. The jail was in bad shape and smelled really bad. Julie and Tim poured lots of money into the project to preserve and modernize parts of the jail. They kept the feel of the jail and added some nice suites of rooms for guests to stay. They sold it after they no longer wanted to run the “jail.”
Nicholas Spohn and Penn Nobis bought the jail and are now running the Elkader Jailhouse Inn.
“We have four suites here …we could sleep between two and five guests, or inmates as we call them,” said Spohn. “A lot of people lately have been booking the entire place. With you that you also get to sleep in one of the jail cells because we have bunk beds in there.”
Spohn said he got a lot of details from Julie who had the vision to bring back the old jailhouse.
“She said the worst thing was the smell, the pictures didn’t capture, it smelled really bad and now it’s a beautiful jailhouse,” said Spohn.
Now the Jailhouse Inn is booked almost every weekend.
“Surprising thing is that people are coming from all over the place to have the experience spending a night in jail,” said Spohn.
The jail also has a height chart used as a backdrop for inmate mug shots. Additionally, there is a fingerprinting device located in the main jail block.
One suite is named after Don Harstad, a former Clayton County Deputy, now retired and turned novel writer. Another is named for Emma Big Bear, a native American woman known to have a fondness for staying as a prisoner in the jail.
If you’d like to know more about the Jail House Inn, click here.
If you plan to visit Northeast Iowa check out other area attractions on Travel Iowa.