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Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

December 13, 1995, Page 32

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles


Good Old Days

“The Neillsville Times--Featured News Release”

By Dee Zimmerman



Thursday, Feb. 25, 1897


New Jail and Sheriff’s Residence to be built at Neillsville this year, at a cost of $15,000:


The Times presents an engraving of the front elevation of the substantial and elegant county jail and sheriff’s residence, which will be built during the building season of 1897 east of the court house in this city.  It will be of cut stone and pressed brick, two full stories and a large attic, as to the residence part above the water tables, and a commodies basement.  The outside dimensions will be 42 x 97 feet, including the jail, and throughout it will be a model.


In the basement to begin at the bottom, will be rooms for ironing, laundry, bath, boiler, fuel, vegetables cellar and other apartments, and a clothes shaft from the basement up through the main stories.  The foundation of the jail consists of a series of heavy cross-walls or bulkheads, fifteen in all.


The first story of the residence has at the front center a large hall, with parlor one side (west) and sitting room opposite.  Back of these are, arranged conveniently, dining room, pantry, kitchen, sheriff’s office, corridor and space where the old cells will be built in to serve as detention cells, or for female prisoners, etc.  The second story contains five commodious bed chambers, a large hall, clothes press, bath and closet for the sheriff’s family, and over the sheriff’s office, in what may be termed the middle division of the building, are the cells for female and juvenile prisoners, the hospital, a bath, a closet6, hall, etc.  In the residence part is a handsome stairway leading from first to second story and in the middle division, adjoining the jail proper, is a stairway for jail use.  A little over half way up, these stairs have a landing, and from this landing is a caged door leading to the second story cells of the jail proper, which is wholly separate from the lower tier of cells.


The jail proper contains six steel cells and a surrounding corridor, the cell doors open to a middle corridor which has three of the cells on each side.  The upper story of the jail is a duplicate of the lower.  Each cell is 6 ½ x 8 feet and 7 feet high.  They will be made of 5-ply chrome Brooklyn or Portsmouth steel, and the outer corridor will be lined, floor, ceiling and walls with solid No. 14 iron or steel plate, windows provided with the best grade of steel bars, and the work riveted with tough Norway iron.  Ventilation is up-to-date and perfect.  The cells are to be provided with air-tight, galvanized iron night soil buckets, with iron commode boxes with sliding covers to keep them in, and each cell will have brackets to hold two steel wire hammocks for two prisoners to sleep in. 


The entrance to the jail is a boiler plate cage with steel doors, on steel faced gravity hinges, outside door to have a heavy tumbler lock in wrought iron case, fitted to lock with key from either side; locks throughout and the feed-hole fastenings, etc. are all to be of the most modern description.  The doors of the two tiers of cells will be controlled by a locking device by the use of which the main door to cage or any door in cage can be locked or unlocked separately from the outside of the corridor.  Dumb-waiter openings, etc of steel and amply protected, with push bolts and tumbler locks.  Jail is to be heated by hot air, through grating inlets.  Peeps will be of No. 14 iron, with 2 x 2 x 1/4” bent angle forms, with sliding covers.  Wrought iron drainpipes will be put in throughout the building. Windows will be strongly guarded and made absolutely safe.


In the entire building there will be 121 windows of all kinds, and 76 doors, the doors between residence and jail to be fire-proof doors.  The floors in residence office, etc. will be of hardwood.


In general exterior appearance the building is, as the cut indicates, imposing, and the sides are as handsome as the front.  The roof will be iron, with leaded plates at joints and gables, and upon the whole, it will be the handsomest public building in Clark County, and one of which the entire county will be very proud.


Bidding for the Jail – The other afternoon the Court House was busy with contractors, in town, bidding on the new jail building, and the committee was busy with reviewing the forty bids that were received.  It is hoped that the committee will be able to announce the lowest bidder next week.


This detailed, descriptive article of the proposed 1897 Clark County Jail became a reality when the plans were finalized and enacted upon that same year.  Fortunately, the unique structure still stands on the court house square, saved by the efforts of some historically minded county citizens.  Buildings such as this are reminders of our past and likely not to be duplicated.  If you haven’t visited this soon-to-be 100 years old structure, make plans to do so when the Clark County Historical Society opens its door for summer tours.  The organization has an assortment of collected artifacts depicting our county’s history, plus data recorded through the years.  It is a feeling of stepping back in time; much is to be learned from our history. 


An engraving of the Jail and Sheriff’s Residence was published in the Neillsville Times, Feb. 25, 1897. The estimated cost was $15,000 for building the uniquely designed structure.  The construction work was done that summer, as planned.  It now serves as one of two Clark County Historical Society Museum sites.



The Clark County Jail and Sheriff’s residence as it appeared, circa 1920


The Court House Park, circa 1930, was on the court house square.  The old court house and county jail building were surrounded by a well kept lawn.  Band concerts were held weekly, during the summer on the grounds.  Area residents would gather on those evenings to listen to the band and socialize with friends and neighbors.


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