Old jail is coming down

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Work began earlier this week on the partial demolition of the old Switzerland County jail and Sheriff’s office, and county commissioners say that once the entire project is completed, the area will add to the historic nature of the community.

The jail is actually three different areas that were built in three different time periods.

The original cell block area, which is on the west end of the building, was built in 1853 and will remain after the demolition of the rest of the building is completed.

Commissioner Brian Morton said that once the remainder of the building is gone, the original cell block will be restored and the original four-point roof will be placed on it. The old fence will then be put back up, and the area will have a plaque that tells of the history of the jail for visitors.

In Harraman’s “History of Switzerland County, Indiana, 1885”, there is an account of the construction of the original jail cell block:

“The present county jail was built in 1853, the contract entered into on December 14th of that year by Joseph Peelman, who agreed to erect the building according to specifications for $8,675; James S. Furgeson, Jacob Shull, and John Weaver, commissioners.

“The building is 37×20 feet, two stories, and built of good brick, and according to the contract, was completed within two years.”

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After removing items such as the radiators, windows, and doors from the building, workers from Bovard and Leap first removed the old kitchen area that was on the north side of the jail, nearest the new county jail.

That area was built onto the jail in the middle of the last century.

After the kitchen area was removed, workers were faced with trying to separate the original cell block from the two story office area that faced Liberty Street. The two sections were attached with reinforced concrete block, and those had to be removed before the front portion could be taken down.

With the kitchen area being removed on Tuesday, the workers began trying to separate the two remaining sections on Tuesday afternoon.

That work continued on Wednesday morning; as a crane was placed in Liberty Street to begin the process of taking down the front of the building.

The facility served as the Sheriff’s office until the new detention facility was opened last fall; but hadn’t housed prisoners since it was closed and condemned in the late 1990s.