Old Tennessee jail to become military museum
PIKEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An old jail in Bledsoe County is being turned into a military museum.
The 160-year-old building with a rock exterior, a front porch and a second-story cellblock that can be accessed only by an iron staircase outside will also house the county’s Veterans Service Office.
County Mayor Bobby Collier told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the building will be used and maintained by local veterans groups.
The county opened a new $7.4 million, 96-bed state-of-the-art jail last year across town.
Meanwhile, it began fixing up the old jail two years ago with a $17,000 Historic Preservation Fund grant. Collier said work includes updates to the building’s front, refinished wood floors and plaster stripped from original brick walls.
“We left that,” he said, pointing at original brick from 1851.
According to historical records, county officials specified that the jail be built as a two-story all-brick building that would be 20 feet wide and 40 feet long. It cost $1,500 to build and records show the county sold a second lot to help with construction costs.
After that, there’s not much mention of the jail until 1937, when local media reported county officials at first talked about building a new jail, but then scaled back their efforts to include “repairs and improvements” to the 1851-era jail.
When it closed to prisoners in 2008, the jail was among the oldest still operating in the state, according to county records and local historians. It was designed, as it stood then, to hold a maximum of nine prisoners, but often held 25 or more.
The last major update it had before the historical restoration was in the wake of a federal lawsuit in 1992. Because of the civil action, records show the county had to spend around $400,000 on repairs and upgrades.
“If only the walls could talk,” said Bledsoe County Public Library Director Carolyne Knight, who keeps and researches the library’s collections of historical records. “It has seen 46 sheriffs come and go.”
Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com
# # #
Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE