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Town residents rebuild Camp Verde’s old jail
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 14 April 2010 15:54
Right behind the Camp Verde Visitor Center on Main Street, there’s a tiny nondescript building made of poured concrete and river rocks.

For years, it has been the meeting place of the local Lions Club. Before twhat, it served as a community library. But when the structure was first erected by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, it was a building you didn’t want to find yourself inside of unless you worked there.

It’s the old local jail, and a group of local residents are working to restore the building to how it looked back in those days.

“It’s in a great location,” said Dick Rynearson, one of the people working to make this restoration a reality. “It’s right behind the visitor’s center and it’s right on the way to the fort [Fort Verde State Historic Park].”

JNL-CV-jail-4-14Rynearson said he’s wanted to see the old jail converted into something that could attract visitors for years.

“It’s a priceless piece of history,” Rynearson said.

Rynearson and Ray Floyd approached the Camp Verde Town Council last week to get support for their idea, and the town’s leaders were unanimously in favor of the plan.

“I think it would be a great thing for the town,” Councilwoman Jackie Baker said. “It would be good for encouraging people to walk around.”

Floyd said that he would like the town, which owns the building, to work out some sort of lease agreement with the Camp Verde Historical Society once the restoration project is under way.

There’s some work to be done. Rynearson said that at some point in its history, the metal cells were removed and put into what is now the old Camp Verde Marshal’s Office. Windows were plastered over, and volunteers will return the cells to the old jail, reopen the windows and install a desk and an old wood stove.

They are getting some help from Tap Parson, who worked with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office and locked people up in Camp Verde’s old jail in the 1950s and ’60s.

“We locked people up overnight, and they’d see a judge and be released with a fine or get sent down to Prescott,” Parson said.

Parson has told Floyd and Rynearson how the jail looked back in those days, and they plan to work off those memories to convert the building back into a jail.

While he knows the layout, he also has stories. He remembers some of the darker moments, like the time an inmate committed suicide, and the lighter moments, like the time Parson incarcerated a pig that kept escaping from a nearby property to cause trouble in town.

The Lions Club has been using the building for years, but its lease with the town apparently expired in 2001. Jim Lawson was at last week’s meeting on behalf of the Lions Club to ask the town to extend the lease. But after hearing about the plan to restore the old jail, Lawson said he changed his mind.

“I think this would be something great,” Lawson said.

Vice Mayor Bob Kovacovich said that the town would look for another place that the Lions Club could use. In the meantime, the council plans to take an inventory of other buildings owned by the town and see if there are any other expired lease agreements.

Rynearson said that the Lions Club could take as much time as it needs to clear out of the tiny building, and the restoration work will all be carried out by volunteers.

Mark Lineberger can be reached at 567-3341 or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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