Stop 25: The 1892 Pasco County Jail
You must drive by 14350 Tenth Street and gaze at the 1893 Pasco County Jail. It is the oldest ‘brick’ building in Dade City, constructed by Francis J. Kennard and Captain Augustine Henry Ravesies. Kennard was an architect from England who designed numerous buildings in Tampa Bay and later all of Florida. Early on, he was known for his so-called ability to construct fireproof buildings. After the construction of the Dade City jail, he was recruited by Ocala to build their city jail. Assisting him with the construction was a decorated Confederate Captain from the Civil War who had settled in Trilby, and arrived from an Alabama family of French settlers. (Their French-style plantation was well known in early years). Ravesies also built the First Presbyterian Church in Dade City for a sum of $595, of which he donated $100 back to the congregation.
The brick treasure of the 1893 jail building was painstakingly renovated by Robert Meyers in 1981, for the Atlas Group. Long-time owner Buddy Jones of Engraving Systems Support, Inc., acquired the historic building from Mid-State Federal and furthered renovation while painstakingly caring for the building.
Like many historic buildings, there were stages of additional construction. The east side is the oldest portion and is distinguished by the curved formations above the windows. The most eastern portion had been the Pasco Sheriff’s and his family’s quarters and was torn down in the 1970s. Many Pasco County sheriff’s and their families lived in the sheriff’s quarters, and the sheriff’s wife was paid to do the preparation of the meals for the inmates. A collection of tales about the Pasco County jail are both factual and folklore, as there were break-in’s, kidnappings, and all nature of vigilante type events that occurred at the place. Bricks from that eastern section which was the sheriff’s quarters were used in the building of Freeman Polk’s home outside of town. Although recent information was discovered from a September 30, 1938 article of the Dade City Banner, entitled “County Jail Completely Dismantled,” documented the interior of the jail was dismantled and the sheriff’s quarters on the east were taken down with bricks being used for an addition that was underway to enlarge the 1909 courthouse. The work on the jail was completed by inmates and funding came from the Works Progress Administration of the New Deal.
The middle section is nearly matched in brick but the brick pattern above the windows is horizontal. The final lower-level section on the western side is the last section added around 1900. You can also discern the small structure that jetted out from the west was the solitary confinement cell (with very thick walls).
Buddy Jones is a historian as well and devoted years researching the jail and from having owned it for over 28 years, he heard many stories, etc. On the western side of the jail he explained, the wooden gallows which endured two public hangings as Sheriff Bart Sturkie and Sheriff Isaac Washington Hudson, Jr. had the ominous task of walking the sentenced prisoner up the stairs of the gallows. Jones found documentation of only two legally-sanctioned public hangings at the location.
Mr. Jones also described the double hung windows throughout the jail. Bars on the windows are original as well as the concrete trusses and one section with a concrete roof. The bricks are particularly hard with a high concentration of iron as well. The lovely red tile roofing is of course not original, and Jones attempted to keep nearly everything else as authentic as possible. A new restroom area was added in the back (north) of the building and is abutted up to the original structure.
Of the many stories Jones collected about the jail, he related that “Grandpa Sumner” of the Sumner family told some of the most colorful of stories. Sumner explained that jugs of moonshines were often left for prisoners and accommodation was sometimes made for this requested brew from inmates. Others remembered the poignant African-American hymn sings on the grounds of the jail.
The original marker of the jail was located in recent years and is on display at the West Pasco Historical Society Museum in New Port Richey.