By 1992 Daviess County’s unique antique jail had been neglected for many years. Its future was at a crossroads: either repairs must be made or the decay would soon push expenses past practicality.
The roof leaked and guttering was gone; the exterior brick of the jail octagon was “soft” and crumbling due to an interior metal lining holding moisture against the walls. Metal screens covering jail windows were not authentic and no longer secure to framework. Mortar no longer stabilized foundation limestones. Sandstone windowsills on the sheriff’s residence were badly eroded. A porch off the kitchen had rotted away as had the cellar entry …and so on.
Neglect and water damages were also evident inside the jail and residence.
Despite its problems, the jail still had much which had weathered the test of time. These photos reveal the condition of Daviess County’s antique Squirrel Cage Jail in Gallatin, MO, prior to renovations completed in 1993. Among those inspecting the premises and assessing possibilities were Wayne Clevenger, Dan Lockridge, Darryl Wilkinson, Larry Richards, and Carol O’Hare.
The crawl space underneath the Squirrel Cage jail reveals some secrets and jail construction and modifications. These photos were taken in 1993, showing scenes which probably are unchanged today:
Some initial decisions were easy to make. Although the Daviess County Historical Society had funds, the organization was inactive since publishing its last history book in 1985. The society had no revenue stream to finance jail restoration and ongoing maintenance. Plus, due to insurance considerations, the jail should continue to be owned by Daviess County. Restoration or even simple improvement projects would necessarily come from volunteers and by donations.
The immediate concern was roof replacement. In fact, initial intentions hardly envisioned much beyond steps to halt the flow of water damages to both the jail and its residence. In 1992 the idea was simply to somehow hold the unique antique building together so that perhaps in some later day, someone could restore and properly preserve the jail. Three volunteers — Dan Lockridge, Wayne Clevenger, and Darryl Wilkinson — began meeting regularly to make plans toward that end.