The Historic "Old Jail" Gets an Update

Published on 1 November 2022 at 05:31

I met with Doug Abramson at the site of the Old Jail at 15 Court Street in Washington, to get an update on the progress of the renovation that began a few months ago. Doug and his wife, Susan moved to Wilkes County in 1999 and currently reside in Tignall.  They also own the Court Street Livery and other properties in Washington and have been involved in various community activities such as Mule Day. Doug also serves on the board of The Chamber of Commerce.They purchased the historic property in 2019 with plans to create additional housing in the downtown Washington area. 

The unique, two story Romanesque Revival style structure was built in 1891 and designed by the McDonald Brothers Jail Building Company out of Louisville, Kentucky. The company was well known at the time and many of the jails they constructed are still standing and listed on the National Register of Historic Places as is the Old Jail, which has been on the register since June 5, 1974.

The Old Jail was built to replace a former jail that was in disrepair and was deemed unsanitary and unsafe. In addition to being a better building overall, the jail was to be innovative in its method of heating. A fire was built outside the building with limestone tunnels that would draw the warm air in and vent it through the large chimney. Unfortunately, the system didn’t work as planned and in 1895 it was decided a different method of heating would need to be installed. By 1908, the Old Jail was known as a menace with prisoners escaping at a worrying rate so a new jail was completed in 1911 and stood just behind the courthouse. The Old Jail was abandoned and deteriorated suffering a fire sometime during the 1990’s. Over the years it has been utilized as a tavern, shops and living quarters.

A spacious courtyard surrounds the gated property with large limestones covering the ground that Abramson tells me come from Indiana.  Impressions of various fossils along with indentations from jail bars can be seen.

The two apartments, one on the main floor, the other on the second story, each have two bedrooms and are each approximately 1100 square feet of living space. The walls of the original structure are original, exposed brick. The addition on the back of the building houses the two bedrooms, a bathroom and an entrance to the back patio or porch area. The renovation is expected to be complete in early 2023 when the residences will be made available to lease.



Written by Michelle Chaffee

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Trudy Cottone
2 years ago

Enjoyed this story. Thank you!