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Whitewater Jail

Whitewater Jail

Location Class:
Built: 1911 | Abandoned: 1940s
Status: Restored 2012
Photojournalist: Darryl Claassen

The original Whitewater jail was built on the lot where the former Swiss Church building current rests at Oak and Topeka Street. It is said that its construction was a result of an ordinance and was made of wood, finished in 1892-93. This jail was used for almost two decades until April 21, 1910 when a man was in the calaboose. Someone came along and set the jail on fire, it is alleged someone was trying to free him. He called for help, nearly perishing from smoke inhalation before neighbor to the jail, George Hash came and put the fire out. The jail was too badly burned to continue being used and another wood jail would be too risky.

Land was bought by the City a few blocks over on Ash and Topeka Street for the erection of a new jail. From February 23 to March 4th 1911 sealed proposals were given for the construction of the reinforced calaboose. The contract was allegedly given to a grew from Towanda, Kansas. By April work had commenced and within a few weeks the jail was open and ready for use. Etchings found on the roof set in the concrete include two sets of initials and 1911 the year it was completed. The Whitewater jail is on the bigger scale compared to others being built of concrete with two cells, iron work done by the Pauly Jail Building Company whose stamp is visible on the end of the lock bolt. It had two pull down beds from the wall, only one original bed is still existing in the jail.

In 1920 an ordinance was given probably in response to the Spanish Influenza outbreak just a year prior. It was stated ” Any person violating any of the rules and regulations or any of the order of said Board of Health or any person failing to give notice required in the preceding section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and shall upon conviction thereof be fined in any sum not exceeding $100 or by imprisonment in the city jail….”

The jail ceased to be used around the 1940s and sat unused for years. The City of Whitewater used the building for storage in later years up until 2011. This was the year the jail garnered interest in restoration. Citizens got together to fix some of the rusted iron fixtures and donate time period items. A roll top desk was donated by Rex Newcom. The desk was first used in the Whitewater Missouri Pacific RR Depot then moved across the street to the Kirkwood Lumber Company and used there by the Manager Harry Newcom. The wood stove is of unknown age but typical of the period. The bed frame located in the northern cell is a reproduction, recreated using common blacksmith methods.







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Emily Cowan

Emily is a two-time published author of "Abandoned Oklahoma: Vanishing History of the Sooner State" and "Abandoned Topeka: Psychiatric Capital of the World". With over two hundred published articles on our websites. Exploring since 2018 every aspect of this has become a passion for her. From educating, fighting to preserve, writing, and learning about history there is nothing she would rather do.

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