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Historic Wykoff Jail Haus has travelers lining up to spend a night behind bars

Since being listed on Airbnb three years ago, the Wykoff Jail Haus has become a popular tourist destination in the area.

Jail Haus 01.jpg
The historic Wykoff Jail Haus has become a popular Airbnb destination for travelers since being listed on the site three years ago.
Contributed / City of Wykoff
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WYKOFF — The lineup at the Wykoff jail is pretty extensive these days.

Travelers from all over the country are paying to spend the night on the jail cells cots.

The historic Wykoff Jail Haus, 217 N. Main St., was built in the late 1800s but has been transformed in recent years to an Airbnb that’s received so much praise its “warden” is considered a Superhost by the vacation rental site.

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To be considered a Superhost on Airbnb, a host must consistently have a 4.8 rating or more during the past year, along with completing 10 trips or three reservations that total at least 100 nights, a 1% cancellation rate and a 90% response rate or higher.

The Jail Haus’ popularity was immediate when City Clerk Administrator Rebecca Schmidt created the Airbnb account three years ago.

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“My phone was just blowing up. I mean, it was crazy,” Schmidt said. “Within a month, we had more bookings than we had ever had in the whole place.”

The Wykoff Historical Society previously oversaw the Jail Haus before Schmidt began working for the city. When the Historical Society wasn’t receiving enough rentals to warrant the city to continue maintaining it, Schmidt came up with the idea of listing it on Airbnb.

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The historic Wykoff Jail Haus that's become a popular Airbnb destination for travelers since being listed on the site three years ago.
Contributed / City of Wykoff

Schmidt said that before being listed on Airbnb, the Jaul Haus used to bring in between $1,000 to $1,200 in rental sales. Last year, it made $13,000.

Since joining Airbnb, the City of Wykoff has taken ownership of the Jail Haus. All the profits made from its rentals go toward the “historical fund,” which supports other locations in town and gives money to support the Historical Society, Schmidt said.

The Jail Haus can hold four guests — a queen size bed in one room, and bunk beds in the lone jail cell in the other room. There's one full bath.

Maintaining all this is 70-year-old Larry Riddle, who’s been the primary caretaker of the Jail Haus for years, Schmidt said.

When the popularity of the Jail Haus grew after the Airbnb listing, Schmidt had a “really formal sit down with him” to see if he could keep up with the workload that came with the increased demand.

“I said, ‘Hey look, Larry, are you ready to handle this?’ I mean, we were renting it every single night of the week. It wasn't just a weekend,” Schmidt said. “And he was thrilled. He’s an amazing person and I don’t know what I would do without him.”

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Jail Haus 02.jpg
The historic Wykoff Jail Haus that's become a popular Airbnb destination for travelers since being listed on the site three years ago.
Contributed / City of Wykoff

Schmidt believes the popularity behind the Jail Haus is a combination of factors. The $95-a-night charge makes it one of the most affordable Airbnbs in the area and the nearby Forestville State Park makes it an ideal spot for vacationers to stay when they explore the park, go fishing, hiking or biking the trails.

While some guests have left complaints about there not being much to do in Wykoff, population 444, Schmidt said guests know what they are getting into.

“I tell them, ‘If you’re looking for nightlife, this is not for you,’” Schmidt said. “This is roughing it. I mean we have comfortable beds, we have clean bedding, but it’s still not your top-of-the-line hotel experience, and I think people enjoy that. They look for that. It’s more of an experience than just a hotel room.”

Jail Haus 04.jpg
The historic Wykoff Jail Haus that's become a popular Airbnb destination for travelers since being listed on the site three years ago.
Contributed / City of Wykoff
Jail Haus 05.jpg
The historic Wykoff Jail Haus that's become a popular Airbnb destination for travelers since being listed on the site three years ago.
Contributed / City of Wykoff

Erich is a digital content producer at the Post Bulletin where he creates content for the Post Bulletin's digital platforms. Before he moved to Rochester, Erich worked as a sports reporter for Rivals.com covering the University of Illinois' athletic programs in Champaign, Illinois. Readers can reach Erich at 507-285-7681 or efisher@postbulletin.com.
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