Historic county jail to be repurposed
KINGMAN – The historic Mohave County Jail on the campus of the new Law and Justice Center is being re-purposed in downtown Kingman. The board of supervisors voted Jan. 17 to lease the building to the Mohave County Historical Society.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to turn the historic jail back into someplace that people in the community would like to visit, and compile a history of it,” said Leah Stagg, Curator for the Mohave Museum of History and Arts.
Ryan Esplin, Deputy County Attorney and Historical Society Board of Directors member, said the original courthouse and jail were constructed in 1909-1910 and that both buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
“It’s a two-story reinforced concrete structure that housed inmates until the 1960’s. Since that time there’s been a period where they were storing items but it’s really been vacant for many years now,” Esplin said. “It’s really a fascinating place … It’s very interesting.”
Supervisor Jean Bishop recalled that her late husband Dan had fond memories of the jail that is located about 200 yards west of the mothballed Palo Christi school.
“My husband was one of the last deputy sheriffs to actually book somebody into this jail,” Bishop said. “He also lived in the house right next door to it with his grandparents when he was going to elementary school … and the stories, with the kids walking by and talking to the prisoners, are just amazing.”
Bishop noted that inmate autographs and artwork decorate some of the interior surfaces of the old jail.
The 15-year lease approved by the board of supervisors will automatically renew for another 15 years, providing a period of time of control of the facility to justify repair, renovation and re-use. Removal of health threatening lead-based paint and other hazardous materials will precede preparation of the building for public use by the Historical Society.
“They would offer it for public tours and also for educational purposes. Schools could come over and see it. Field trips and things like that,” Esplin said. “Currently the Historic Society operates the Powerhouse, the Bonelli House and the Mohave Museum of History & Arts. These are all buildings that are owned by the city, but the Historical Society operates them and they’ve been doing that for many years. And the idea is that this would kind of be that fourth jewel in that crown where the public could have tours of each one of those.”
Supervisor Travis Lingenfelter joined Bishop in expressing gratitude for the historic preservation initiative.
“I want to say thank you to the Mohave County Historic Society for taking this on,” Lingenfelter said. This building is quite the historical treasure.”