CATSKILL — Residents can learn more about the historical significance of the former Greene County Jail complex on Saturday before the relic becomes extinct.
Built in 1908, the jail and the sheriff’s office are listed on both national and state historic registries. Both buildings are slated to be demolished, with bid packages expected to go out later this month. Meg Nowack with Historic Catskill will present “The Completely Fascinating Story of the Old Greene County Jail” at 4 p.m. at the Bridge Street Theatre.
An evaluation performed by Dutch American Architectural Group in collaboration with Historic Catskill suggests the former Greene County Jail may be the last of its kind.
A similar jail complex with a corresponding sheriff’s office was built in Oswego County in 1909, according to the report. It was demolished in 2018. Jefferson County also had a similar jail, but that too no longer exists.
“It seems that most of the older jails are demolished during time, which means that the Greene County Jail can be the only survivor of this era,” according to the report. “This fact makes the contextual value extremely high. This building matters for our heritage and has potentially world status as an example of a county jail in iron and steel from the beginning of the 1900s.”
The manufacturer, Van Dorn, was one of the most well-known manufacturers of locks and jails in the world.
Components of the jail would have been prefabricated in a factory in Cleveland, Ohio, before they were transported by ship to Catskill. The parts were then brought up Bridge Street by horse and assembled.
“The facades were never changed and represent a high quality jail of 1908,” the report cites. “All handmade with limited tools. It is rare and of exceptional architectonic value. The originality of this jail is rare and therefore it has a high cultural heritage value. This can be the only jail of this size and make in the world.”
The county has explored a few options for using the parcel, including two parking lot designs with either 23 or 41 spots, estimated between $1.33 million and $1.9 million.
The engineering firm Barton & Loguidice estimated that to develop a new 5,000-square-foot office building on the parcel would cost between $1.13 million and $1.2 million.
Constructing a new office complex to meet the needs of the Office of Court Administration and possibly the Public Defender’s Office is an option, Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said.
“[The public defender] is in need of space and it does make sense logistically,” he said. “I could potentially see it happening. It depends what kind of space is available.”