This will be a very interesting restoration project and through our on-going efforts to gather historical information, the stories being told by local residents are mesmerizing.
When complete, the Monticello Old Jail Museum will provide a window into the life and culture of people in small towns in north Florida during the early twentieth century. The museum will be open to the public daily and offer planned educational programs for north/central Florida elementary, high school and college students.
What To Expect
We will explain how the sheriff and his family lived on the main floor of this type of jail building with the prisoners locked in their cells overhead while the sheriff’s wife cooked the prisoners’ meals. The apartment will be furnished with period pieces. Docents will be trained to explain how food for the prisoners was ‘sent from Tallahassee’ and how it was stored.
The small, separate “women’s jail” building with only two cells will be re-furnished and included as part of the museum tour to be conducted by the trained volunteer docents.
The steelwork is intact for the cell blocks on the second floor and will be kept as it was during use. We must remove loose paint, but we will keep the steel in its rustic era state. The cells will be furnished with a thin mattress and one blanket on bunks. The infirmary and linen room will be re-furnished with shelves as used when the jail operated.
The building’s basement will provide office and meeting space for several local non-profit organizations. The main floor will be restored as the sheriff’s residence and the old sheriff’s office will be the museum office. Donations of furnishings used during the 1920s and 1930s are coming in and we keep them safely locked in one room of the jail building.
The Monticello Old Jail building is located just one block off State Route 90 and with proper signage, it will be immediately noticed from this major east-west artery. Only five miles from Interstate 10 and 26 miles east of Tallahassee, the Old Jail Museum will provide a destination point for visitors to Monticello and Jefferson County once completed. We believe this historic site will also provide increased traffic for businesses, historic sites and other attractions in Monticello.
Activity and Interest
Many people in Jefferson County remember the old Monticello Jail when it was in operation and others recount working or visiting the jail. As of this writing, many have expressed interest in sharing stories, pictures, etc. We appreciate everyone with pictures and other memorabilia that have contacted us and are willing to donate to our museum once the building is safe for storage.
Ike Anderson, who lives nearby, worked part-time in the jail when he was sixteen. He frequently visited the jail with his father, an attorney and magistrate, when he held hearings. Joseph Bell, who lived in the building as the child of a deputy sheriff, is willing to be recorded and videotaped as he talks about the jail operation. He tells of his mother cooking for the prisoners and his sisters taking the meals upstairs to the cells. Mr. Bell aslo recalls one sheriff’s wife becoming “acting” sheriff when her husband was killed in the line of duty and suggests law enforcement complicity in local bootlegging.
Another tells the story of an attempted jailbreak and describes the death of a prisoner by a fire he set himself in an outdoor punishment cell or “Hotbox” somewhere in the yard behind the jail building. Nan Baughman, who visited the jail as a child, remembers one Monticello citizen that wisely checked himself in at the jail overnight when he realized he had over-indulged in alcohol. This oral history will become a part of the story told to museum visitors.
The funds raised for this project will be used as follows:
Hire restoration architect to survey and create a plan for the preservation and protection of prisoner’s writings left on walls in the main jail. The pencil and pen writings consist of prayers, poems, calendars with days marked off with X’s and some crude drawings. One line of graffiti in the main building is dated 1941. Preservation of these treasures will be our first step as the plaster and paint the prisoners wrote on is cracking and peeling, gradually destroying some of the writing. Est. $5,000.
Photograph, stabilize & protect prisoners writing on walls. Est. $5,000
Remove lead-based paint from steelwork in cellblocks. Est. $3,800
Clean, paint and refurbish interior walls and floors throughout the main building and the “Women’s Jail.” Est. $4,200
Clean, paint, refurbish and replace exterior trim and gutters on both buildings where necessary. Coat metal roof. Replace two exterior doors, all shutters and 16 windows. Windows on the main floor of the building were replaced by “modern” casements with steel frames when the wing was added, somewhere in the late 1960’s. We will replace them with double hung windows exactly like the windows in the basement and on the second floor, restoring the original look of the building. Est. $16,600
Remove pigeons from attic, remove nests and other material and seal openings in eaves, repair wood trim around roof where necessary. Est. $2,400
Replace, refurbish, purchase and install needed plumbing, electric and HVAC where needed. Est. $13,000
If you are interested in donating please mail your donation directly to Main Street Monticello or use the PayPal option below. Thank you for your support!