Historic Grapeland jail getting restored

The Grapeland jail was built; in 1906 (Source: KTRE Staff)
The Grapeland jail was built; in 1906 (Source: KTRE Staff)
The jail has just two small cells (Source: KTRE Staff)
The jail has just two small cells (Source: KTRE Staff)

GRAPELAND, TX (KTRE) - An East Texas community is working to save a piece of its past. The town of Grapeland has started working on the town's jailhouse in an effort to preserve a piece of early 20th century history.

It may be hard to believe, but in the early 1900s, Grapeland's criminal reputation was getting a little out of hand.

"People were coming through the railroads at that time, and they were getting a little rowdy on the weekends, so they decided they needed a jail," Economic Development Director Wayland Woolsey said.

108 years after the jail was built, the community feels like it is time to restore the historic building. The town is saving the building with a $2,000 donation from Grapeland's Economic Development Group.

The jail is falling apart and missing part of the roof, which is why some residents saw the building as a pile of junk.

"There was some backlash [for wanting to restore it], but I think the people of Grapeland came together as one and decided that it was worth saving."

Before the project could start, the city had to move the building since historic restorations were not allowed on the private railroad land it sat on. Woolsey said that Union Pacific did not mind the building being on the land, but it could not allow for work to be done to it. The Noon Lions Club helped with the move of the building. Floyd Salmon from Salmon Lake Park provided the equipment to move the building for free.

The jail is just two small cells of darkness once the door is shut, which is why Woolsey is happy to have never seen the inside.

"I can't imagine what it would be like," Woolsey said. "I don't think I would want to be in here. It has no comforts of home in here. There are no personal facilities and I don't know of any beds in here at the time. If I had my preference, I would rather be looking in the bars than from the bars."

The restoration of the wood and bars should begin in the early summer once the wood is custom cut. The building should be finished by the fall.

Copyright 2014 KTRE. All rights reserved.