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Texas | Architecture | Jail

FAYETTE COUNTY JAIL
La Grange, Texas

Fayette County

by Johnny Stucco


Date: 1881
Style: Victorian Gothic
Architects: Andrewarthe and Wahrenberger
Contractor: Fritz Schulte

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A local history published in 1975 stated: “The old jail may one day become a museum and landmark.” The jail was in use up until 1985. Now, in 2005 – the 121 year old structure is indeed a landmark. One of handsomest and best preserved 19th Century jails in Texas. It currently houses the La Grange Chamber of Commerce.
TX - Fayette County  jail
Fayette County Jail
Photo by John Troesser , December 2001
The people of La Grange in 1837 either believed in before-need planning or else they had a serious crime problem. They organized the county in December of 1837 and had their jail completed by the next July. After this first jail wore out prisoners were then farmed out to be kept in private homes for a year.

The county paid the keepers the munificent fee of $3 per day and there was probably a list of people willing to house and feed cold-blooded killers for serious money like that. The total expenditure for this experiment came to $622 – fully one half of the county’s entire annual budget.

A prisoner named John Vaughn (crime unknown) had his trial date set so far in advance that when the arithmetic was done, it was realized his stay would cost the county $800. He was moved around to other jails – to get a lower bid. Finally, Vaughn was parked at the Travis County jail for a mere $111.


In the early 1880s, the county issued twenty-two bonds at $1000 each to build a new first-class jail. An iron fence was ordered from Philadelphia for $2,074. It managed to survive the scrap drives of WWII and it's still keeping livestock off the lawn 120 years later. So far, that comes to only $17 a year.
Fayette County Jail built with Muldoon blue sandstone , La Grange, Texas
Fayette County Muldoon blue sandstone jail today
Photo by John Troesser, August 2004
Fayette County Jail, La Grange, Texas old photo
Same view.
Vintage photo courtesy Fayette County Heritage Museum & Archives
Fayette County Jail cast iron fence, La Grange, Texas
One post of the $2000.00 Fence
Photo by John Troesser, August 2004
The building's limestone came from nearby Muldoon, Texas. The stone was in demand for it's unusual blue color and it was used in many notable buildings around the state. The county's courthouse one block north (1897) is also made of Muldoon blue sandstone.
Haunted

The jail is also said to be haunted. One of the suspected spirits is said to be that of a Fayette County woman who murdered a hired hand and then committed suicide by staging a successful hunger strike. Another legend says the skeletons of several hapless prisoners remain chained to the walls under sand and silt from a flooding of the Colorado River. The sheriff couldn't - or didn't - get them out in time. They've been telling that story around cub scout campfires for years.
Fayette County Jail tower detail, La Grange, Texas
Jail Tower
Photo by John Troesser , October 2004
Fayette County Jail top windows, La Grange, Texas
The right side of the jail
Photo by John Troesser , October 2004
A window with wind chimes
Photo by John Troesser, December 2001
Fayette County Jail window detail, La Grange, Texas
One of the two matching round windows that flank the main door
Photo by John Troesser, August 2004
Fayette County Jail top detail, La Grange, Texas
Top view of the jail
Photo by John Troesser, December 2001
“Drunk Blocks”

Another convenient feature were the two exterior “drunk blocks.” These freestanding cement cells on the jail lawn came with their own “bath.” These cells were for prisoners too drunk (or rowdy) to climb the four-step staircase of the entrance. One of the cells has been kept for display.
Fayette County Jail drunk blocks,  La Grange, Texas
The exterior "drunk block."
Photo by John Troesser, October 2004
La Grange, Texas Fayette County Jail built with Muldoon blue sandstone
Fayette County Muldoon blue sandstone jail today
Photo by John Troesser, October 2004

2005
© John Troesser

See Fayette County

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