Friday, November 18, 2011

Lucas County Jail

Located at the intersection of Linden Avenue and South 11th Street on Lots 6 and 7 of Block 13, Original City of Chariton. Constructed 1916 by Andrew Jackson Stevens, contractor, to a design by J. P. Cuth, architect. Vacant as of November 2011 and facing the prospect of demolition.

This is the third Lucas County Jail built on this site. The first, an 18-by-22-foot one-story brick structure, built in 1871, replaced the first county jail, built of logs during the 1850s a half block west of the courthouse square on Lot 6, Block 10, Original City of Chariton. The second jail, an elaborate two-and-a-half story combination of sheriff's residence and jail, was built for $12,000 between May and September of 1881. The 1916 jail also provided a sheriff's residents in the south part of the building; jail, in the north.

The cornerstone of the County Jail identifies W.A. Elliott, W.E. Allen and Fred Yengel as members of the Lucas County Board of Supervisors; Fred N. Wilson, as county auditor; Andrew Stephens as contractor and J.P. Cuth as architect.

Although the Name stone, date stone and corner stone appear to be limestone, much of the contrasting trim on the jail building is of cast concrete.

The "style" of the building almost defies description, but some of the elements approach "prairie school" elements applied not long after 1916 to other brick buildings by architect William Perkins, who began his practice in Chariton during 1917.

These details are especially evident in the cornices of the brick piers that support the roof of the jail's front porch.

According to some stories, at least some cells and barred guards for exterior openings were salvaged from the 1881 jail building.

Here's a view of the 1916 jail from the southeast, showing the transition from sheriff's residence to jail and the side door most frequently used by officers.

The following account of Lucas County's first three jails is taken from Pages 448 and 449 of Daniel Baker's "History of Lucas County, Iowa," Des Moines: State Historical Co., 1881. The first jail was located about a block due west of the courthouse, fronting on the alley that still divides the commerical block that forms the west side of the square. The second and all subsequent jails were built a block due south, on the quarter block at the intersection of Linden Avenue and South Eleventh Street.


was built around 185-, on lot six, in block ten, lying west of the public square. It was a one-story building some eighteen by twenty feet in size, constructed of logs, and divided into two rooms. This served the county until 1871 (sic), when a new and more substantial jail was built of brick, some eighteen by twenty-two feet in size, and one story high, which cost, without the cells, two hundred and ffity dollars. It is located on lots six and seven, in block thirteen, southwest from the public square, corner of Jefferson and Polk streets, and is still used as the abode of law-breakers.

At the October election, 1870 (sic), a proposition was submitted to the voters of the county, to build a


The proposition was lost by a vote of 266 for, and 1064 against it. Again, at the October election of 1875, the proposition to build a jail and jailor's house was submitted to the people, and again defeated by a vote of 419 for and 914 against it.

Undiscouraged by these failures, the proposition was submitted for the third time at the November election of 1880, and it carried by a vote of 1,582 for it, to 580 against it. Thus it became an assured fact. According to the plans and specifications already prepared, the building will be a credit to the county. It will combine the sheriff's residence and the jail, and will occupy the same lots upon which the jail stands, already described. the building will be constructed of brick upon a stone foundation, enclosing a cellar under the front residence part. It will face the south, with a front elevation two and a half stories, forty feet wide and thirty feet deep. This will constitute the sheriff's residence, and will contain a parlor, dining room, kitchen, hall, and various closets on the first floor. Joining and extending back of this front elevation along the railroad northward, will be the jail proper. This will be two stories high, thirty-seven feet wide and thirty-six feet back, thus making the entire building sixty-six feet long. This will include the jail office, vestibule, and a boys' cell immediately back and adjoining the residence; and farther back still will be a row of four cells, with a prisoners' corridor in front. In the second story there are to be two cells for females, and a turnkey and guard's room, and (room) for four additional cells when needed. The building is to be finely finished at a cost of $12,000, and is to be heated throughout with the Haxton steam furnace. The contractors are James & Nullegan, the mason work; and McKleeven Brothers, the wood work. The work of construction was commenced the first of May, and is to be completed by September, 1881. The money for the construction of this public building is already on hand, and will not necessitate the levy of an additional tax.

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