Save the old jail, and in doing so, heritage and beauty
To the Editor:
I read in dismay in the May 23 Argus that the Houston County Board is considering demolishing the old jail. Having recently returned to Caledonia after living many years in New England, I find such a plan outlandish. When one lives and travels in the older parts of this country or Europe, one realizes the value and beauty of its ancient buildings. In New England there are numerous buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries and later. Whenever possible these are protected and preserved for their historical and cultural value. If they no longer can function for their original purpose they are retrofitted for current use, keeping as much of the original architecture as possible.
The 137 year old jail, built within 20 years of Caledonia’s founding, should be preserved at all costs, and not sold off for the value of its “limestone blocks” or other materials. The old jail and courthouse complement each other beautifully, unlike the new overwhelming justice center. Without the old jail, what would replace it but another asphalt parking lot? The board would be wise to keep the building climate controlled as needed until a further use can be found. If that ends up being some commercial use, so be it. Whether offices, a bed and breakfast, a new library or condominiums, such buildings have been put to numerous uses.
Caledonia has little enough to attract visitors. By keeping its beautiful old buildings, especially those of stone and brick, it shows outsiders that we are proud of our history and heritage. Even these many years later, I and others still lament the loss of St. John’s Catholic Church which stood where Merchants Bank is now. This was another beautiful old stone building which should have been preserved and put to another use. Instead it fell victim to urban renewal. Let the good people of Caledonia and Houston County act now to prevent another such travesty. We owe it to our ancestors to keep their history, in this case built of stone, intact.