The Old Clarke County Jail is a two-story rectangular brick building with the exterior finish stuccoed and scored to look like stone. The Clarke County Jail is listed on the National Register of Historic Places since May 29, 1980. It has also been designated as a Historic Landmark since January 8, 1991. The building currently sits unoccupied.
Col. Leon Henry Charbonnier designed the Old Clarke County
Jail and Courthouse in 1875. Charbonnier, who founded the school of engineering
at the University of Georgia, also designed other buildings in the Athens area,
such as Moore College. Charbonnier was also a professor of civil engineering
and professor of physics. He was a native Frenchman and had a background of
Eaves, McGinty, & Company built the courthouse and jail
in 1876. This building is architecturally significant as it is the only
surviving element of the county government complex built during 1875-1876,
which was at the end of the Reconstruction Era. It was uncommon in this period
of Georgia history for an entire complex to be built from scratch at one time.
However, when the county seat was moved to Athens from Watkinsville in 1871,
there was a need for a courthouse, jail, and other structures.
The jail is a two-story rectangular brick building with the
exterior finish stuccoed and scored to look like stone. The roof originally had
tin covered eyebrow dormers, which are wavy dormers that protrude through a
slope on the roof that contains a window. As the lower floor of the jail is
flush with the ground, it has no exposed foundation. The jail has five chimneys
that are all at different heights and angles. The interior consists of I-beam
framework with bowed ribbed iron vaults and the floor is poured-concrete. Both
of these choices make the interior less susceptible to fires. The walls and
partitions in the upper floor of the jail have been removed, leaving it completely
open. This was done to keep up the integrity of this aging building. The
hanging trap door, however, remains intact.
After the construction of the current Clarke County
Courthouse in 1913 and the jails closing in the 1950’s, the vacant property was
divided and sold. The Courthouse and jailer’s house were demolished, but the
old jail remained as a warehouse. The Clarke County Jail is listed on the
National Register of Historic Places since May 29, 1980. It has also been
designated as a Historic Landmark since January 8, 1991.
The only plaque at this location recognizes this building as
The Phinizy Spalding Building, Old Clarke County Jail. Phinizy Spalding was
among the first residents of Clarke County to restore a home, which sparked the
historic preservation movement in the city of Athens in 1969. Spalding and his
wife restored dozens of builds and he established the Historic Cobbham
Foundation, which focused on restoration of the residential area in which he
lived. The Athens Regional Medical Center acquired the land on which the Old
Clarke County Jail resides in 1991 and donated the building and a portion of
the area to the Historic Cobbham Foundation in 1995.