DELAWARE — Two years in the past, the Delaware County Commissioners rejected a possibility to promote the historic county-owned jail and former sheriff’s house that sits atop a hill beside the historic courthouse simply north of Downtown.
The $156,000 supply from native lawyer Michael T. Cox — for a 143-year-old constructing valued at $1.5 million for tax functions — wasn’t the one drawback. It was certainly one of solely two bids, and the opposite was for $10,000.
On the time, Commissioner Gary Merrell mentioned “We simply need to ensure we get this proper.”
The county now believes that it is bought the best supply: $350,000 for the Italianate-style constructing at 20 West Central Avenue from the Delaware County Historic Society. Officers there say they’re excited to take possession, as soon as authorized particulars are ironed out.
With out the monetary assist of a personal benefactor, although, the deal would not have been attainable, mentioned Donna Meyer, government director of the historic society.
Roger J. Koch, a long-time preservationist and society board member from Delaware, instructed Meyer that the constructing was too good to go up and that he was prepared to assist by loaning the cash. (He had hoped that his support could possibly be nameless, however his title seems on authorized paperwork.)
“He instructed us ‘I’ve bought this cash, and I am not doing something with it,’ ” Meyer mentioned.
Koch, 76, a retired architect, created a restricted legal responsibility company (LLC) to buy the constructing from the county’s land financial institution, a separate authorized entity from the county, however on whose board Merrell and Commissioner Jeff Benton sit. The historic society will, in flip, re-pay the LLC, interest-free on the five-year debt.
“I am doing it out of altruism, and I are inclined to draw back from publicity,” mentioned Koch, explaining his cause for wanting privateness. “I am not wealthy. And it is a main sacrifice. This can be a mortgage. I get paid again.”
The commissioners nonetheless should approve the transaction to make sure that it’s in compliance with the commissioners settlement with the land financial institution.
The constructing’s wrought-iron gate, ornate brickwork, tall vertical home windows and hovering tower are among the many historic options. Inside, cellblock partitions are scrawled with Eighties references: ZZ Prime, AC/DC and messages of hope: “The Lord is the Method.”
Prisoners have been final housed right here in 1988, earlier than the opening of the present jail about two miles northeast of Downtown Delaware.
The constructing at present homes the Fifth Circuit Court docket of Appeals and a legislation library. The society plans to relocate its workplaces right here from its present Stratford Street web site, lease out different workplace area, and present “enjoyable, interactive, instructional, evolutionary, and novel leisure,” in keeping with a marketing strategy submitted to the county. Which means college journeys, Halloween occasions and many public excursions.
“I simply love this — the variety of prospects that there are,” mentioned David Hejmanowski, the society board president and a juvenile court docket choose.
Koch mentioned the 8,500 square-foot constructing is called the outdated jail, although a lot of the construction was the private residence for the sheriff.
“It was constructed throughout the heyday of Delaware’s post-Civil Warfare development,” Koch mentioned. “The governor (Rutherford B. Hayes), who turned president, felt strongly that jails must be humanely run and one of the simplest ways to try this was to have the sheriff and his household dwell within the facility.” The sheriff’s spouse usually ready meals for inmates, he mentioned.
The constructing’s place atop the hill was intentional as “visible connectivity to the residents,” mentioned Koch. It additionally signaled that the sheriff was the second most essential determine in county authorities behind commissioners.
The commissioners have not too long ago spent about $10 million to rework the adjoining courthouse, which now homes their workplaces and different authorities workplaces.
Cox, the lawyer whose bids have been rejected twice, mentioned he hopes the society can preserve the property. He had pledged to spend as much as $40,000 yearly for restoration and upgrades.
“We have been prepared to make a dedication. We had the income to help it. We knew what we have been moving into,” he mentioned.
Don Rankey, county treasurer, additionally thought that Cox’s proposal was a great one. However he is satisfied that preservationists will do the identical.
After reviewing the historic society’s monetary books, Rankey mentioned, “I really feel very comfy that they will be capable of preserve this. In my thoughts, that is the perfect of all worlds.”