Affordable Housing Group to Present Plans for 140 Year Old Jail in Downtown Elkton

A non-profit affordable housing group, the Home Partnership, Inc., is interested in purchasing the old 1870s Cecil County Jail from the county for $400,000.  The developer wants to transform the building into 50 affordable apartments for seniors in downtown Elkton, the Cecl Whig recently reported.A reprsentative of the group will appear before the town’s Historic District Review Board on June 27th at 6: p.m., to discuss concept plans for the 1.12 acre pracel.  This zoning board is charged with protecting Elkton’s architectural and cultural resources.  At that time, the developer will probably present his plans for developing the 50 apartment unit structure at 214 North Street.

When it was built in 1871, the sheriff’s home and jail was hailed as a state-of-the-art monument to law and order, a credit to the county. Considering that it replaced “a so-called jail” where notorious types were “chained to the floor,” it probably wasn’t hard to make that claim.  For those who ran afoul of the law there were 20 cells at the new prison, surely enough to “accommodate any demand that Cecil county culprits,” could place on it, said the Whig.  Sheriff Thomas, the first official to turn the key and swing open the wide heavy grated iron door, let in his “house guests.”

In the years to come, those cells would have their own stories to tell and the jailhouse walls would stand as silent witnesses to more than a few tragic scenes.  Out in the old jail yard, more than one man would draw his final breath while at the end of the hangman’s noose.   One early spring day in 1912, as the county felt the first tentative nudge of the approaching season’s warmth, a cold-blooded shooting in the outer yard snuffed out the young life of a Cecil County Sheriff. The incident took place when Sheriff J. Myron Miller attempted to take a pistol away from a trustee who had refused to obey an order.

Somehow the place managed to outlive its usefulness to the county in a mere 128 years, so a modern detention center started sprouting out of a corn field at the edge of town early in the 1980s. Then in January 1984, in a secret nighttime operation, Sheriff John F. DeWitt moved inmates from the jail to Landing Lane.

One era had ended but another one might be getting underway for a structure that has been on the market since 2009.  The Elkton Historic and Architectural Review Board will get to weigh in on this matter at its public meeting in June.

As a snow falls on the old jail on a cold winter night in February 2010, a few inside lights burn brightly and an sign on the main entrance lets people know the building is for sale.


10 responses to “Affordable Housing Group to Present Plans for 140 Year Old Jail in Downtown Elkton

  1. MIke, are there any ghost stories associated with the building?

  2. Hi Mike, are they going to take down the old jail. If so, I hope the county decides to keep it and make it into something the citizens can enjoy.

  3. Charlie, I’m not sure. They say they want to put 50 apartments there and that doesn’t seem practical, unless they’re planning a large addition on that small parcel. The public hearing with the town historic district review board is coming up and the developer is on the agenda, so I’ll go and provide some news coverage on the request. That way we’ll all have some idea of the proposal. It’ll be interesting to see what’s proposed there.

    • Thanks Mike, I just hope that the town and county don’t tear the building down. With it’s history, I feel it would be a plus for the town and county.

  4. old elkton jail bird

    man tell me they are not tearing it down. i spent lots of nights in that dewitt hotel. that is one of them historic building in Elkton. i know

    • Old Elkton Jailbird, thanks for checking in with your concerns about the 1870s Elkton Jail. It is unknown what the developer is planning to do with the property at this point. The company will present plans to the Elkton Historic District in July, where the proposal will be outlined. That’ll give everyone an idea of what they’re proposing, and we’ll share it with readers. We’ll keep you informed. YOu might consider attending the meeting and testifying in support of preserving an old historic building.

      • Thanks Mike, when is the meeting so we can attempt to save the old jail.

      • Charlie, the town has informed me that the HARC meeting has been rescheduled for Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 6:00 PM. That’s a public meeting so anyone can attend. I’ll cover the meeting and report on whatever is brought up and whatever feedback Elkton’s HARC board gives the developer. I’ve covered a few of those meetings in the past for the blog. They usually take public comments too if someone wants to speak for or against a project. I’ve also asked for copies of any papers that are going to be shared with the board prior to the meeting, so readers can get a sense of what’s being proposed such as just an interior alteration of the building, tearing it down, an addition or something else. That’ll be important as the public hasn’t heard the developers plans as of yet (to my knowledge). Thanks for your interest in the old place. I’ll keep you informed on this end as I get info.

  5. Thanks again Mike, I just think it is important that the jail be saved
    for the citizens of this county. There is so much history in that
    building and it should be shared.

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