WPA Era “Old Jail” May Be Torn Down

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“I want you to take a look at it for yourselves,” Carter County Judge Executive Mike Malone asked the board of magistrates near the end of a recent Carter County Fiscal Court meeting.

A new roof for the old building would likely cost “a couple hundred thousand” and “the side by Second Street is an accident waiting to happen,” Malone said last week.

The structure also has many openings, allowing animals to take up residency. “Cats and possums and birds flying in,” Malone noted, estimating “It would take in excess of $300,000 just to close the envelope … doors and windows and stuff like that.”

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The county judge said he is generally opposed to the demolition of old buildings, although in this case “The liability grows every day.”

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The old jail building has much to appreciate. Malone said he personally admires the craftsmanship applied in the hand-hewn stone and in particular the way the masons used self-supporting arches and keystones for entry ways. If the county had lots of funding, Malone said the building could be renovated and used as for another purpose.

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The old jail is also full of black mold, which Malone estimates would require about $700,000 to eradicate. The building’s stone, and possibly the old jail’s bars and equipment, might pay for the demolition. “That’s a real good possibility,” he said, adding the county would want to retain enough of the stone to build a patio or similar site to be enjoyed by county employees and retain some of the historical value. “There’s a lot of history in that building,” Malone said, noting he grew up nearby and has many memories of the place, including trading curses and insults with the inmates as he and other kids passed by. “People don’t realize that building was last used in 2001 or 2002,” he concluded. 

The fate of the old jail building will be discussed by the county’s magistrates during upcoming Carter County Fiscal Court meetings.

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Story and Photos by TIM PRESTON 

Carter County Post

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