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Advocates try to restore historic Oklahoma jailhouse to accomplish ‘education and inspiration’

By Alyse Jones

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    CANADIAN COUNTY, Oklahoma (KOCO) — Advocates trying to restore a historic El Reno jailhouse hope to accomplish education and inspiration.

Their efforts come from a desire to keep history from repeating.

“It was the destruction of the courthouse that led to the creation of Preservation El Reno. After it was torn down, there was a group of citizens who said never again; we don’t ever want to lose a beautiful building because it wasn’t properly maintained or because citizens didn’t get involved,” Amy Neathery, head of the Jail Restoration Committee with Preservation El Reno, said.

Preservation El Reno said the old Canadian County Jail can be restored with the community’s help. The historical group began leasing the jail from the county in October 2023 after the county commissioners agreed the non-profit could privately fundraise to renovate it.

On Wednesday, Neathery reminded residents of its rich history by participating in a webinar with the Oklahoma History Center.

“Soloman Layton drew the plans for the old jail in 1905, and it was constructed and opened in 1907. The Pauly Jail company, which still exists today and still makes jail components, designed this and, as far as we can tell, it’s really the first jail they used it in,” Neathery said.

From design to historical landmarks and even recognition on the 2021 List of Endangered Sites, the group hopes the jail can be on that list again this year as a reminder. They also hope the history lesson will inspire the community to donate and help them keep the jail alive.

“We would like to see it as both a museum and an education center. We are dedicated. We know this isn’t as easy as snapping our fingers and suddenly, we have the building back to what it was in 1907,” Neathery said.

Preservation El Reno hopes the building can be fully restored by the Route 66 Centennial in 2026.

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