Delaware Co. to eventually sell historic jail, which will be preserved under provision

Local News

DELAWARE, OH (WCMH) – The historic Delaware County Jail, built in the late 1878, will soon go back up for sale. 

Two bids to purchase the building have already been rejected by county commissioners. 

“We felt we should take a step back, re-submit the bids or the bidding opportunity and from there we would be able to put some parameters to make sure the building, the jail is safe long term and will be taken care of,” said commissioner Gary Merrell.

For 110 years, Delaware County inmates were housed at 20 W. Central Avenue, until overcrowding prompted a new structure to be built.

Members of the Delaware County Historical Society said it’s important to make sure the jail is maintained. 

“You can imagine 16 prisoners here and at times there were up to 45 prisoners,” said Delaware Co. Historical Society trustee Jan Fleischmann. 

She said the jail was connected to the sheriff’s home, which is now a law library. 

“The sheriff’s staff, usually his wife also called the matron, would make the meals for not only the family, but all the prisoners,” said Fleischmann.

Delaware Co. Historical Society building and grounds officer Roger Koch said linking the sheriff’s residence to the jail was unusual for the19th century, a time when jail conditions were often deplorable.

“Rutherford Hayes, who was born in this community in Delaware, was one of the national movers in prison reform,” he said. “The idea was that the prisoners would be much more likely to get humane treatment and good food.”

Graffiti can still be seen inside the cells from prisoners counting down the days and passing the time. Those on good behavior during the 1970’s were allowed to paint the walls. 

“A favorite jailer, a deputy, his name was Captain Al Williams, supervised the painting,” said Fleischmann. “With the phrases such as ‘truth and justice’ that maybe Capt. Williams influenced them and was giving them a positive outlook on life.”

Merrell said there were two bids to purchase the building that were rejected. He said the highest bid was approximately $150,000 and would use the space for attorney offices. The other bid was $10,000 with the intention of turning it into a bed and breakfast. 

“It has nothing to do with the integrity of the two bidders,” he said. “I think they’re both well-intentioned and have the best interest at heart, but things change over time, people change, commissioners change and we just want to make sure we do the right thing.”

Koch and Fleischmann said they’re glad to see the county is taking care to make sure the jail is preserved for years to come. 

“I think our history is important,” said Koch. “These buildings are the physical reminders of who we were and how we got here.”

The county is currently revamping the request for bids. So, far there’s no timeline on when they will be accepting them again. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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