Fueled by a $4,000 grant from the Pocahontas County Landmarks Commission, plans are underway to restore the historic Durbin Jail to its original glory.
Bartow resident Jason Bauserman is using the funds to restore the jail to make it a historic landmark in the county.
“I want to leave everything pretty much as is,” he said. “I don’t really want to change much. The roof kind of looks bad but I think just nailing down the nails and caulking a lot of that will help. I want to put on the same color out here, the same gray or light blue color.”
While the building is stable, there is a lot of undergrowth and saplings Bauser- man plans to remove to enhance the exterior of the jail.
Bauserman became interested in the jail last year when he began researching the old Durbin Town Council record books and learned the jail was used for much more than just incarceration.
“The amazing thing is, this used to be the town hall where they held council meetings,” he said. “They voted in here and what if you had a prisoner in here, or even during a town council meeting with a prisoner in there? It’s just kind of hard to believe.”
The jail is an 18 x 20 foot structure with two 8 x 8 foot stalls for prisoners.
“It’s not very pleasant,” Bauserman said. “You wouldn’t want to end up in here. They just had these little vents to have a little air circulation. There are no windows and the ceiling is poured concrete.”
Entering the main room and looking at the jail cells, the wear and tear tell stories of aggression and, more than likely, inebriation.
“You can see where the prisoners inside were able to pry open the doors,” Bauserman said of the metal doors. “That’s been pushed out. It’s a nice heavy door. They just wanted to get out.
“Most of the arrests were for public intoxication or alcohol related,” he added.
It’s important to Bauserman to make the building welcoming to visitors who want to see into the past, but at the same time, he wants it to continue to resemble what it was – a jail.
“I don’t want to make it look nice and new and cozy, because that’s not really how it was,” he said.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org