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Long-standing history of the Aitkin County Jail - MessAge Media: Local

Long-standing history of the Aitkin County Jail

As the county population grew, the need for changes to the 1915 jail became evident.

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Posted: Wednesday, July 4, 2018 5:00 am

The population of Aitkin and Aitkin County exploded between 1860-1900. Between 1860-1870, the population rose from two to 178 residents. By 1890, there were more than 2,000 residents.

The original  courthouse built in 1887 included a jail and sheriff’s residence but county officials began talking about replacing the facilities in the early 1900s.

A Prison Building Fund was included in the county’s budget and a call for bids went out in 1914 for a new jail and sheriff’s residence estimated to cost $30,000. It was to be constructed of “brick and stone, fireproof, two stories and a basement.”

Built by architect Charles E. Bell, the building originally contained a nine-room sheriff’s residence and a cell block extending to the rear.

In anticipation of future population growth, the second floor of the jail had space for future expansion of cell blocks. Because “women and girls should not be placed in the same jail with men,” the women’s ward was on the second floor as well as a juvenile ward so that young offenders would not “mingle with hardened criminals.”

When those facilities outlived their usefulness, a new jail and administration building was constructed on the block in 1986, with a two-story enclosed corridor connecting the jail and courthouse. The old jail building was converted into offices.

The Duluth architectural firm, John Ivey Tomas/Thomas A Vecchi Inc. prepared the plans for the 1986 renovations.

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