Tipton County Jail & Sheriff’s Residence
203 S. West Street, Tipton
At the end of the nineteenth century, many Midwest governments required sheriffs to live next door to the county jail for security purposes. Some took it a step further, actually combining the jail and residence into one structure.
In Tipton County, officials upped the ante—hiring one of the state’s most celebrated architects to design an imposing new sheriff’s house and jail. Adolph Scherrer had recently completed work as the supervising architect for construction of the Indiana State Capitol building in Indianapolis, and he brought artistry to his Tipton County commission.
The structure married a handsome brick house with a more utilitarian cellblock, connecting the two with a three-story brick and stone tower. Upon the jail’s completion in 1895, the Indiana Board of State Charities pronounced it “one of the best in the state.” County officials were so impressed with the result, they hired Scherrer to design the county’s courthouse just a block away. Today, the jail and courthouse are Tipton County’s only two National Register-listed buildings.
Though they eventually dropped the order requiring the sheriff to live on-site, officials continued to use the building as the county’s jail and law enforcement offices for the next 125 years. However, after completing a new $16 million jail facility earlier this year, the county vacated the historic building and began gathering bids for its demolition.
A 2014 study found the jail to be in relatively good shape, though it does need investment. Similar historic jails around the state have been creatively adapted as restaurants, offices, museums, even apartments and condos.
County commissioners have made it clear they’re ready to be rid of the former jail. Unless preservation advocates can find a solution quickly, the building will come down.
Saving threatened buildings takes teamwork. You can be a part of that team. Reach out to local leaders. Let them know these buildings are important to you. And support state and local preservation groups.