“If you are driving past the Old Stone Jail behind the Rowan County Arts Center, you will see a newly paved parking lot and two shiny new A/C units installed next to the building. What you won’t see, though, is the newly repaired and tarred roof, but trust me, it’s there,” says Gary Lewis, President of the Rowan County Historical Society.

This past spring, the Historical Society received a gift of $6,385 from the Cave Run Arts Association. These funds were then leveraged by using them as a match to apply for grants from two funding agencies, the E. O. Robinson Mountain Fund and the Rowan County Community Fund. (A previous grant received from the E. O. Robinson Mountain Fund for $13,600 was used to reconnect plumbing and electricity from the street to the building and throughout the first floor.) The goal was to install a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit for the first floor of the old jail for an estimated cost of $10,000. The HVAC system for the second floor would have to wait until more funding was acquired as that had been estimated to cost another $10,000. The E. O. Robinson Mountain Fund grant provided $2,655 and the Rowan County Community Fund provided an additional $1,429.

Among the bids for an HVAC system the Historical Society received was a bid from Temperature Solutions.

“The Temperature Solutions bid was to install two A/C units and two gas furnaces for only $10,200, which was about half the cost of the estimates we had previously received,” explained Jeffrey Lewis, Project Leader for this restoration effort. “We were surprised and overjoyed to learn that we would be able to heat both floors for the price of one.”

In the meantime, Rowan County Fiscal Court, under the direction of Judge-Executive Walter Blevins, voluntarily had the parking lot paved, providing parking for eight vehicles, and also had the roof repaired and repoured with tar.

“For this, we will be forever grateful to our magistrates for their continued support for the restoration of the Old Jail, and in particular to Dr. Walter Blevins for his efforts in getting these projects completed,” added Gary Lewis.

In November 2015, Rowan County Fiscal Court unanimously voted to “hand over” the Old Jail to the Historical Society for the purpose of cleaning it up and restoring it to functionality. Once restored, this Old Jail will be “handed over” to the Arts Center which plans to use it to expand their after school arts program.

“The jail offers us a large space that we will use as a much-needed classroom, and the six jail cells upstairs will be rented out to artists for studio spaces,” says Ashley Gilliam, Director of the Arts Center. “We already have several artists that have expressed interest in renting a cell,” she added.

Jan Bishop, former owner of Pasquales Restaurant and Bakery On Main, has been coordinating and managing all work carried out on the jail.

“Originally we had set for ourselves a five-year goal to complete the restoration, but it looks like we’ll be getting it done in even less time,” she explained. “Other than a lot of cleaning and scrubbing and painting, the only projects remaining that require funding is to extend the electricity and plumbing to the second floor and to purchase and install light fixtures and sinks,” she continued.

Several windows will also need to be replaced as well and, if possible, two windows that have been bricked in will be opened up again and replaced with windows. A sidewalk that connects the Old Jail with the Arts Center and the two parking lots is last but not least on their wish list. The Historical Society is thrilled as it begins to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

For information about the Old Jail or for those with a desire to support this project with manpower or dollars call Lewis at 356-2209.