Constructed in 1857 at a cost of $40,000, the former Dubuque County Jail is one of a handful of Egyptian Revival buildings remaining in the United States. Featuring 18-inch gray limestone walls, the building functioned as a jail until 1971. A few years later, the Dubuque Art Association leased the building for use as a museum, an arrangement that remained in place through 2003. When the Association moved to a remodeled bank building in 2003, the Dubuque County Historical Society established the Old Jail Museum in the historic facility.
The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from Memorial Day through Labor Day.