Affordable Housing Group to Present Plans for 140 Year Old Jail in Downtown Elkton

A non-profit affordable housing group, the Home Partnership, Inc., is interested in purchasing the old 1870s Cecil County Jail from the county for $400,000.  The developer want to transform the building into 50 affordable apartments for seniors in downtown Elkton, the Cecl Whig recently reported.A reprsentative of the affordable housing group will appear before the town’s Historic District Review Board on June 27th at 6: p.m., to discuss concept plans for the 1.12 acre pracel.  This regulatory zoning board is charged with protecting Elkton’s architectural and cultural resources.  At that time, the developer will probably present his plans for developing the 50 apartment unit structure at 214 North Street.

When it was built in 1871, the sheriff’s home and jail was hailed as a state-of-the-art monument to law and order, a credit to the county. Considering that it replaced “a so-called jail” where notorious types were “chained to the floor,” it probably wasn’t hard to make that claim.  For those who ran afoul of the law there were 20 cells at the new prison, surely enough to “accommodate any demand that Cecil county culprits,” could place on it, said the Whig.  Sheriff Thomas, the first official to turn the key and swing open the wide heavy grated iron door, let in his “house guests.”

In the years to come, those cells would have their own stories to tell and the jailhouse walls would stand as silent witnesses to more than a few tragic scenes.  Out in the old jail yard, more than one man would draw his final breath while at the end of the hangman’s noose.   One early spring day in 1912, as the county felt the first tentative nudge of the approaching season’s warmth, a cold-blooded shooting in the outer yard snuffed out the young life of a Cecil County Sheriff. The incident took place when Sheriff J. Myron Miller attempted to take a pistol away from a trustee who had refused to obey an order.

Somehow the place managed to outlive its usefulness to the county in a mere 128 years, so a modern detention center started sprouting out of a corn field at the edge of town early in the 1980s. Then in January 1984, in a secret nighttime operation, Sheriff John F. DeWitt moved inmates from the jail to Landing Lane.

One era had ended but another one might be getting underway for a structure that has been on the market since 2009.  The Elkton Historic and Architectural Review Board will get to weigh in on this matter at its public meeting in June.

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