What is Under Foot: Old City Hall Jail Cell

What is Under Foot: Old City Hall Jail Cell

photo: Deadwood History, Inc.

Well, since the beginning of this project and throughout the construction, little hints of the past have been brought into the light of day….the log timbers that were part of the Deadwood Opera house foundation, the stacked rock and mortar wall from the Deadwood Theater foundation and The Frost Company firebox and boiler from the Deadwood Theater. All of these finds have been very cool to see and help paint a bit of a picture of what used to be on the corner of Deadwood and Main Street long ago, you can see photos of those items here on our Outlaw Square page.

Now, as interesting as those finds were they didn’t spark the curiosity and wonder as what was found on May 10 – during the process of digging and following the sewer line, everything stopped, as something quite interesting was revealed. First, there was another section of a stone and mortar wall but the real eye opener came as you followed the wall towards Main Street, there it was, a fully stone framed BAR WINDOW!

The dirt digging slowed in pace as Deadwood’s Historic Preservation officer Kevin Kuchenbecker climbed down in the trench and slowly swept away the area to get a better look at what was there, as you can see from the photos it was quite the find. State Archaeologists, along with City Historians, came in to photograph, measure and document the wall and the bar window before the bars were removed as one piece.

Now, from what they can gather in looking at past records, City Hall was built in 1897, so sometime between 1897 and 1903, the window was installed. The Sandborn Fire Insurance Maps show that at one time there was the Fire Department and City Jail located in City Hall. There are no exact details on where the locations of the jail cells were in City Hall but of course there is speculation that this may have been one of the cells.

It also may very well be an interior separation wall of cells or just a separation wall between two different areas. The rubble you see in the photo behind the bars is from when City Hall burned in 1952, the ceiling and walls collapsed. Back then, as you can see, they never really hauled anything out, they just flattened things out and built on top. In fact, if you think about it, as you’re walking up and down Historic Main Street today you are approximately 6 ft. above the original Main Street. Examples of that are, the picture of Mr. Kuchenbecker, he is standing on or about where Deadwood Streets level roadway was way back then, and then the black and white photo looking South on Deadwood St from back in the 1930’s or 1940’s – on your right is the City Hall building, when you look to the lower right of the photo you don’t see the window, it is actually below the sidewalk. You can also see that in the pre-fire photo from high up that was taken around 1951.

The construction of Outlaw Square has not only brought out some eager anticipation of what’s to come in Deadwood but it has also given us a look into its past. There have been a few more gems found and those revelations will come in future blogs. For now you can sit back and wonder, if it was a jail, who may have been a guest in there at one time?

*all historic photos courtesy of Deadwood History, Inc., Adams Museum Collection, Deadwood.

As far as the Construction process, the latest update is:
They are casting the 1st round of the stage foundation walls today, and then starting setting forms of the gazebo and the last wall of the stage. Also are installing plumbing and electrical underground in the new building. They will be excavating the ice rink down to rough grade, subgrade build- up on deadwood street, and backfilling foundation walls that are placed. The
warm DRY weather has been helping the crews in moving forward with the building progress. Make sure you log on to Deadwood.com to see all that is happening in Deadwood in the coming months – Come visit us!

Jail Cell Window – lower level of old city hall, installed between – 1897-1903
Deadwood Historic Preservation Officer Kevin Kuchenbecker