2008-11-20 / Front Page

Old Jail Makes 2008 Pennsylvania At Risk List

8 endangered historic resources named statewide
By Lindsay R. Mellott STAFF WRITER

The future of the old county jail, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as contributing to the character of McConnellsburg, is now a concern of a statewide preservation group. The future of the old county jail, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as contributing to the character of McConnellsburg, is now a concern of a statewide preservation group. Preservation Pennsylvania announced Monday that the Fulton County Jail is one of eight resources statewide included in its 2008 Pennsylvania At Risk list.

The fate of the old jail became a concern of the Fulton County Historical Society and a number of citizens locally after the county commissioners announced earlier this year they were considering tearing it down as part of a multi-million dollar plan to upgrade the county's offices.

In an effort to save the old jail, concerned residents circulated petitions, wrote letters to the editor and spoke out at town meetings with the county commissioners. In October, during the annual Fulton Fall Folk Festival, the Historical Society, to raise interest in the old jail's history and preservation, included the building on its tour of unique homes and historic structures

The Pennsylvania At Risk list is published annually by Preservation Pennsylvania, a statewide preservation group. The list, according to a press release issued Monday by the group, serves as a representative sampling of the commonwealth's most endangered historic resources. It is compiled from recommendations made by Preservation Pennsylvania members, local heritage organizations, the board and staff of Preservation Pennsylvania, and the Bureau for Historic Preservation, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

The description of the Fulton County Jail on the Pennsylvania at Risk list reads:

"Shortly after Fulton County was established in 1850, the county commissioners accepted a bid of $2,874 to construct the Fulton County Jail. Circa 1900, a rear addition containing more cells was constructed to increase the jail's holding capacity. By the late 20th century, however, the historic structure could not comply with the new building codes and prisoners were sent to facilities in nearby Franklin and Bedford counties. The Fulton County sheriff continues to use offices in the old jail, which is located directly behind the courthouse and within the boundaries of the McConnellsburg His- toric District. Currently, the Fulton County Commissioners are considering whether to demolish the former jail, citing utility costs and safety concerns. An alternate proposal would remove the jail's circa 1900 rear addition, which would erase some of the jail's historic and architectural significance and could potentially damage the remainder of the 19th century building. But commissioners are facing oppostition to these plans from local residents who are speaking up at town meetings and circulating petitions supporting the building's preservation. At this point, a final decision has not been made, and the old Fulton County Jail's future is still unknown."

At a town meeting held by the commissioners Sept. 4 at the Wells Tannery Community Building, Commissioner Dan Swain said that he and fellow commissioners Bonnie Mellott Keefer and David Hoover, in response to residents' pleas to save the building, would take steps toward looking into razing just the jail's circa 1900 addition.

At the commissioners most recent town meeting held Nov. 4 at the Warfordsburg Senior Center, the three county officials said that they have scrapped their plan to construct the two-story office building that was part of their upgrade plan. Instead, they said, the upgrade's primary focus will now be the rehabilitation of existing structures as well as the relocation of several complements of county personnel.

Monday's press release states that for the purpose of the at-risk list, Preservation Pennsylvania defines endangerment as "threat of demolition, significant deterioration, vandalism, alteration, and/or loss of historic setting." The preservation group publishes the list to draw statewide attention to the plight of Pennsylvania's historic resources, to promote local action to protect resources and to encourage additional state funding for historic sites.

Other resources named to Preservation Pennsylvania's 2008 at-risk list are Pennsylvania's metal truss bridges; the Pennsylvania Turnpike; Schenley High School, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County; Kemmerer Park Carriage House, Jim Thorpe, Carbon County; Pennhurst State School and Hospital, East Vincent Township, Chester County; Roosevelt Middle School, Erie City, Erie County; and Pennsylvania Railroad Station, Newport, Perry County.

The Pennsylvania At Risk list is released in partnership with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Located in Harrisburg, Preservation Pennsylvania is a statewide, nonprofit, educational and advocacy historic preservation organization and serves as a statewide voice on historic preservation issues. For more information, visit the Web site at www.preservationpa.org.

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