Watauga County Jail (Proper)
The Watauga County Jail built in 1889 is located in downtown Boone, just off main street. Boone maintained the fascia of a suburban house, while serving a more serious function. Built in 1889, the jail was the fourth jail built chronologically speaking in Boone. The building has not functioned as a jail since 1925 when it was decommissioned. Today the building, which features a mid-century facade, is home to Proper, a southern style restaurant.
Backstory and Context
The Watauga County Jail, constructed in 1889 by a contractor from Maysville, Kentucky named William Stephenson on a budget of $5,000, served its function until 1925. Made of bonded brick the walls are one and a half feet thick. With a small town population, the jail fulfilled its function without difficulty until the town and surrounding area’s population began to expand. The town expansion was caused by the growth of Appalachian Teachers College. Many of the original features of the jail such as the cells, dead locks, and other security based features have been removed. Some unique architectural features of the house, such as five paneled doors can still be seen today.
Originally the layout of the jail was spread between the two floors. On the first floor, male occupants of the jail were housed in steel jail cells. It was on the second floor however, that female occupants were housed alongside the jailer and his family. Accounts on where the jailer worked vary between the first and second floor.
The porch on the building was constructed after the building was decommissioned. The only room in the building that hasn’t received heavy modifications is the root cellar, hidden below a trap door in the wooden floor. The modifications were necessary considering after the building was decommissioned the it was re-purposed to act as efficiencies for students looking to rent, it served this purpose from 1925 to sometime in the 1980s. After a period of not serving any function at all, the building was revived from its dilapidated state and turned into a restaurant.Today, the building is occupied by a local restaurant named Proper. The restaurant serves home style southern food in its quaint location. From the exterior, the building is hardly recognizable as the once Watauga County Jail. This is in part from the porch installation, as well as heavy landscaping which covers up some of the brick ghost lines and holes that were made during hasty modifications to the premise.