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Stop 25: The 1892 Pasco County Jail

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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.

  • 1888

    Pasco was incorporated into the Seventh Judicial Circuit in January 1888.

  • 1892

    The first county jail was constructed on 10th Street and Robinson Avenue It consisted of two cells and one solitary confinement space as well as living quarters for the sheriff and family.

  • 1892

    The official name plate plaque of the jail lists county commissioners as B.C. Campbell, T.F. Williams, L.S. Bradham, W.H. Haager, and J.W. Clark.

  • 1906

    Builder of the Jail, Captain A.H. Ravesies, commander of Mobile Company in the eight Alabama Winstons and Herberts Regiment of the Army of Northern Virginia died from complications suffered at the battle of Sharpsburg from 1962.

  • 1909

    The 10th Street Jail was closed and the next jail was opened inside the historic court house with 16 two-men cells and two cells for females and a holding cell which held approximately 10 inmates.

  • 1915

    The Ravesis plantation home (from the jails builder’s origin) in Trilby was destroyed by fire. Luther Wilson escaped from the jail by removing bricks and mortar during the day which he concealed on the top of the cell with a blanket hanging over the opening.

  • 1924

    The Florida Legislature abolished public hangings and instituted court-ordered electrocution; there were two legal, court ordered hangings at the site of the jail in 1913 and 1917.

  • 1925

    Nine Prisoners escaped from the jail by forcing a door to their cell and cutting a bar from a window. Sheriff Hudson slept through the escape of Jack Henderson, Charles R. Hobbs, Sybol Mottox, Sam Mills, Allen Mickens, Jimmie Lee Bennett, Henry Simmons and Jim Jones.

  • 1944

    Noted architect of the Pasco Jail, Francis J. Kennard passed away. Other notable buildings that Kennard designed, included Belleview Hotel, the Pinellas Court House, Lee County Court House, Citizens Bank Building in Tampa, The Floridian Hotel, Citrus Exchange Building, and Hillsborough High School.

  • 1966

    Two new corrections facilities were built in Pasco County; one on Sunset Boulevard in New Port Richey contained a pair of two-man cells and one 16-man holding cell and also included the west side court house, sheriff’s office and a West Communications Center. A Dade City corrections facility on North 5th housed 124 inmates and served as the Sheriff’s Office East Communication Center.

  • 1981

    A new sheriff’s office was built east of county courthouse and government center on Little Road in NPR. Built to house 106 male, female and juvenile inmates; over-crowing forced a 1985 expansion to increase capacity to 163 inmates.

  • 1981

    Pasco County Detention center opened facility in Land O’Lakes.

  • 1981

    Robert Meyer and Atlas group purchased the 1892 jail building for $20,000 1993: Joan Rees donated the cornerstone of the old Pasco County Jail to the West Pasco Historical Museum at Sims Park.

  • 1985-2021

    Gerald “Buddy” Jones Owner Buddy Jones owner of the jail, stated the old jail had served as insurance agency, law office, and sheet metal shop.

  • 2023

    The 1892 jail was updated and opened as a Bed and Breakfast named The Locke Inn.

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