Former Rice County, Kansas Jail Now Serves As Escape Room, Airbnb
Prison cells line the second floor of a bright vintage-looking house. In years past, Rice County Sheriffs and their families lived downstairs, treating inmates and addressing drunken troublemakers.
In 1929, the Rice County Jail opened, serving the community until 2001, when Rice County built the new Law Enforcement Center, located west of town near Lyon airport.
Today, the historic site purchased by Chris McCord in 2020 is an Airbnb and escape room named The Slammer Rice County Historic Jail, where guests can stay in a piece of Rice County history or learn the tale of the location through a historical tour and escape activity.
The Slammer is open as an event space, accommodating Murder Mystery parties and birthday parties in the blue painted prison cells.
1929 innovations and architecture
John Sturn and his wife, Tammy, oversee the building and schedule guests for historical tours and other activities. The cells feature the original locking mechanisms, large cell keys and advanced systems from 1929.
“There are all of these innovations of the day,” said John Sturn. “It’s built in a U-shape so that the jailers can walk around without having to enter the cell block to check in on the inmates, and the jailers could open the mechanical doors outside the cell block.”
The tour educates visitors about the historic site and how the Sheriff’s Department used it to house inmates. John Sturn said that initially Rice County housed its sheriff’s service in a hotel built in the 1800s, and later the county bought the hotel and the land it sat on.
After Rice County moved the hotel to another location, they built a prison to better treat and hold the inmates.
Due to its long history in the city of Lyon, McCord said he was eager to buy the Rice County Jail and turn it into a historic site, similar to his project with the Wolf Hotel in Ellinwood.
“We were excited and saw this place as an opportunity to preserve a piece of history,” said McCord.
A place to stay with vintage decor
The second floor contrasts with the first. Instead of thick iron bars and concrete floors, the first floor houses warm hardwood spaces and a kitchen with vintage decor.
The Slammer Airbnb part offers a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment as an alternative to hotel booking, which is steeped in history. It has an old dumbwaiter in the kitchen and period furniture in the living room.
The Sturns hope to expand the location, offering more events.
“We hope the venue side can expand and host birthday parties, youth lockouts and space for fundraising events,” said Tammy Sturn.