New Jail for Kings County

The Hanford Journal, May 7, 1897

Of which the above is a picture, is to be completed by November 1st, 1897. The architects are McDougall Bros. of San Francisco and Bakersfield. [McDougall Bros. also designed the Carnegie Museum building.] The contractors are Owen & Griffith of Exeter, Tulare County. The contract price of the building is $9505.65.

The jail proper will be built of granite, with roof of corrugated steel, truss construction. The front portion of the building, in which the Sheriffs office is located will be of clinker brick, with arch, pilaster and trimmings of granite, and with a metallic shingle roof.

There will be four granite cells in the building, separated from the main cell room, which latter area is to contain eight large steel cells. The front portion of the building will contain the general office, rooms for the Sheriff and Under Sheriff and a hospital ward.

The jail will face north and be located on the north-east corner of the tract on which the new court house is now being erected.

When completed, Kings County will have one of the strongest jais  the State and one of very neat architectural design.  

Griffith & Owen were the proprietors of the granite works at Exeter and also furnished the granite columns which stand in the south entrance to the courthouse.

The original contract price for the jail was $9.585.65, but the following specifications were altered and the price increased by $1,157.35: granite substituted for concrete in the front steps; granite sill course substituted for brick; concrete in place of brick in foundation; granite walls 9 inches thick in place of concrete in cell walls.

In 1964 the new jail was built and the building remained vacant for a year before being turned over to the Art League to be used as an art gallery. The Art League stayed for ten years. At that time, the courthouse was vacated and there was talk of demolishing the courthouse property, but the community rallied to save the building. Max Walden, a Santa Cruz  entrepreneur was brought in to give advice on how the courthouse could be turned into a useablefacility. Eventually, both buildings were turned over to Mr. Walden, who opened the old jail building as an eatery and bar.

I did not record the source of this additional information: The front of the building was made of brick with its granite entry and tower suggesting Gothic and Romanesque styles of architecture. The walls of the rear portion, which held prisoners, were made of heavy granite slabs, each weighing 1 1⁄2 - 2 tons. All of the jail portion of the structure is solid granite, and there are 13 layers of slab built up.

The 40 x 40 upstairs (the floor was removed over the rear, celportion of the building, opening most of the space up to the room below. A portion of the second floor was retained and forms a balcony which surrounds three sides at the second story level.)consisted of a womens cell (all in the same cell) and two 12 X 17 rooms, one od been a cell for juveniles (11-17 all in the same cell) and the other for picture taking and fingerprinting.

There is a widespread belief that one of the women prisoners, name Mary, hung herself, and that her ghost still inhabits the building. It is said that her silhouette frequently appears against the windows. One of the cooks told a Hanford Show-Offs tour guide that Mary had recently disarranged the straightened table in one of the cell booths and shut the door, which had been left open.

The main floor held two 12 X 17 rooms used by the sheriff an secretary, [these are the two rooms to the left of the front door] plus an 18 X 24 main room booking area. [the bar area] To the rear were four eight man cells measuring 12 X 15 with liftingsuspended bunks, which were raised vertically during the day. Floors were concrete and the cell area had a gutter around the perimeter so it all could be hosed down.

Two small solitary confinement cells were at the west side of the rear area, as well as showers with iron grating overhead and latticed metal security doors housed in granite, also a washroom. These cells have been outfitted as dining booths and storage spaces. In all, the building contains 3,700 square feet.

The projected  completion date for the building was November 1, 1898, however it was actually completed at the end of that month. It may not have been occupied until early 1899.

 Thanks to Martha Bentley for this newspaper article

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