Preservation Group Plans to Save Old Jail in Paxton
By Jeff Bossert
A group of preservationists hopes to find new life for the old jail in downtown Paxton.
The president of the Paxton Foundation, Royce Baier, says for now, the goal is simply saving the 141-year old structure on the courthouse square from demolition.
The building on Illinois’ list of the 10 most endangered historic places hasn’t been used in about 20 years. It’s in disrepair, with no proper heating system and a leaking roof.
Baier said the Ford County Board has asked his group send a proposal for the jail by February 1st. He said Foundation members hope to call it their headquarters, but don’t have a plan beyond that.
“Once we get it in our hands, and get everything cleaned up and stabilized… then if some really great idea comes along, you know, maybe we’ll jump on it," Baier said. "If not, at least we’ll have the building secure, as hokey as this may sound, for future generations. I mean that’s really what preservation is all about.”
Baier says his group hopes to maintain ownership of the old jail and surrounding grounds.
Ford County Board Chairman Rick Bowen said the group’s proposal at the board meeting last week came as a nice surprise. He said it’s hard to justify using taxpayer dollars for roof repairs and other work.
“This all took us off-guard," Bowen said. "We really didn’t think anybody would step up, and be able to do something. But he had one plan, and that was to get bids on demolition.”
The County Board and Paxton Foundation will likely discuss the plan in a special meeting early next month.
<em>(Picture courtesy of Royce Baier)</em>