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In acknowledgement of its past as a place of incarceration, this brand new brewing company is named Iron Key. Why? The original prison key is still needed to unlock the doors. Come, stay awhile.These days, the doors are wide open. Serving time is fine at Iron Key Brewing Co.
Iron key brewing company was created in 2020, but the structure and grounds began in 1932 as a north carolina state prison. From then until today is an eclectic story.
Built from concrete, brick and steel, the nc prison building’s history is a bit of a mystery. Not much is known before 1962, except for the fact that it served as a prison. Prisons do not allow pictures nor tours, so before 1962 truly little is recorded. It is known that it was one of 51 facilities built in north carolina, and all had the same basic design. Barred sections separated each end, and a caged hall, ceiling included, ran from the front entrance to the back.
Massive exterior doors, which are original and still in use today, are made from heavy gauge steel and impossible to open without a key. The original key from back in the day when the building was a prison is heavy and impressive and inspired our name, iron key brewing company. You can find it, framed, on the bar’s back wall.
The yard extended beyond the main prison and today is still a large expanse of green space, surrounded by a barbed wire topped fence. A guard tower, the original warden’s office, the kitchen dining hall, a prison laundry building and solitary confinement, all still stand. Some of the structures have been repurposed over the years. The guard tower needs repairs and cannot be toured at this time. Solitary is exactly that. After the prison closed, the small, red brick building sat alone for over 60 years in its original state, complete with iron bars, steel sinks and toilets. You may peek in the windows. it is sobering. it will be unlocked on occasion for touring. today, you have to pay to stay.
There are stories from the prison era and a few news articles. They are posted on the walls for those curious. The exact closing date of the prison is unknown, but most likely around 1957 when many such prisons were shut down.
In 1965, the state of north carolina sold the property to polk county 4h foundation. The 4h years transformed the prison into a positive gathering place. 4h not only did farm things, like animal husbandry, farming and livestock fairs, but also held classes in sewing and cooking. The youth club built tennis courts, grew trees and contributed to community events including ag breakfasts, fashion shows and a 500 chicken bbq dinner. The chicken dinner was put on by the ag center, as a fundraiser for 4h. All chickens were cooked in the screened smokehouse attached to the original prison dining hall.
Iron key is the perfect place to serve time and unwind. as we look back, appreciate today and toast tomorrow, iron key brewing company honors this unique community gathering place with excellent craft beer and outstanding food.