The Jailhouse Museum is operated by the Wilson County Historical Society. Admission is free. Donations are always appreciated.
HOURS are the first Saturday of the month (10:00 AM - 1:00 PM) as well as during the Peanut Festival and other special events and by appointment.
The Jailhouse Museum was the second jail constructed in Wilson County, Texas. The first jail was built at a cost of $5,500 by Northcraft and Donaldson who also built the Atascosa and Hays county jails. It was sited on Lot 2, Block 11 in the city of Floresville. The contract for the jail called for it to be built of stone - if some could be found within five miles of the site. If stone was unavailable it was to be constructed of brick. The jail was built of red stone, but its source is unknown. It may have come from the east side of the river and perhaps was bought across on the ferry operated by N. de la Zerda in Lodi.
As the county grew, the first jail proved inadequate and on February 17, 1887, County Judge W. L. Wordam contracted James Riley Gordon, a San Antonio architect, to develop a set of plans for a new county jail.
James Riley Gordon (1864 - 1937), a native of Winchester, Virginia, had no formal education in architecture. At age eighteen, he began his career as an apprentice with W. C. Dodson, a prominent architect of Central Texas designs. In the early 1800's he was receiving a very enthusiastic patronage, overshadowing other competition. By 1887 he was being awarded a majority of important local and area jobs.
This new jail was designed to face C Street near the center of the courthouse square. A construction contract was awarded to B. R. Reid to build the structure of "first class" white brick for a cost of $14,000. On July 7, 1887 the commissioner's court additionally authorized the contractor, B.R. Reid to use the materials and plans submitted by Pauly Jail Building and Manufacturing Co. of St Louis, Missouri for the cellblocks. As was the custom at that time, the architect designed the masonry shell of the building, placing within it a patented system of free-standing iron and steel cellblocks.
This two story building was designed with ground floor and the front portion of the second floor to serve as the residence for the sheriff and his family. The back portion of the second floor was designed to receive the prefabricated cellblocks.
The jail itself contains two levels of cells located on the second floor. Two entrances lead to this prison area, one from the inside though a steel door from the first floor dining room and a second steel door entrance (located on the back of the building) opening into a hallway that contains metal stairs leading up to the cells. At the top stair level a trap door was installed for hangings. However it did not function properly and was used only once for a hanging.
A block of four cells is located in the center of each level with cells opening into a common area were the privy was located. Each cell had a space for four people to sleep. The outside building windows were fitted with steel bars for increased security. The cells located at the top level of the stairway were used for solitary confinement. The living quarters for the sheriff and his family consisted of two rooms upstairs, plus four rooms on the first floor which included the kitchen and dining room. This building served as a jail and sheriff's residence until 1974 when a new Criminal Justice Facility was constructed on the courthouse grounds. Although modern plumbing, heating, and lighting have been added over the years, the original floor plan has not been changed and the original jail cells still remain intact.
In 1936 the exterior was modified by the Works Project Administration. The two gables on the east and west elevations were removed and the gable roof was changed to a hip roof. The brick crenellation which extended along the perimeter of the roof was removed as were the six brick chimneys. The double wooden gallery which extended across the front of the building was also demolished at this time.
The Jailhouse Museum is located in the historic building which previously served as the county jail, and residence for the sheriff of Wilson County, Texas.