At old Northampton jail, officials see a successful restoration

February 25, 2020

By Ted Shockley

A peek inside the spartan 1907 Northampton County Jail is a trip back to a different time in corrections.

Thick concrete-and-brick walls form two individual cells and a larger room that was later used as a garage.

Northampton County 1907 Jail
An inmate’s 100-year-old drawing of an Oakland automobile a cell wall. 

Pencil sketches on the concrete walls — one of them an intricate drawing  of a 1920s-era Oakland automobile — are eerily intact. 

“They probably had a lot of time on their hands,” said Mike Ash, president of the Northampton Historic Preservation Society, of the inmates. 

The society plans to refurbish the low-slung brick building standing on the corner of Northampton’s courthouse green, and has received the help of a grant to restore it. 

The Cabell Foundation has awarded a $50,000 matching challenge grant to renovate the structure, and the society is raising money to pair with the award. 

A larger, newer jail that once stood nearby was razed several years ago. But the one-story rectangular jail, a more handsome and less burdensome structure, was spared. 

“This one is a cute little building,” said Ash.

He forsees it as a place for meetings or exhibits. Already, a group that uses volunteer labor to refurbish historic structures across the country has submitted a proposal to restore it. 

One-time or monthly donations may be made through the NHPS website at: Contact Mike Ash at 757-678-0963 for more information about the project or to discuss your pledge or contribution.


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