Lake Norman & Mooresville

Jail restoration efforts gain traction

Raising the money to restore Huntersville’s historic old jail could be the biggest challenge facing a group of volunteers working to turn the building into a public, multi-use space.

Members of the Olde Huntersville Historic Society met with town staff in late October to discuss how the recently designated nonprofit can move forward with the repairs needed to restore the structure. The biggest job ahead is to repair or replace the roof.

The old jail, which sits in the 300 block of Huntersville-Concord Road, was built about 1935 and has been largely unused since the 1960s. In the past year, it was designated as a historic landmark by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmark Commission and the town.

While any action by the group will require town board approval, the group is leading efforts to restore the building, said Rob Kidwell, a member of the town board and the historic group. The group has between 20-25 active members, he estimated, noting they recently received official 501(c)3 status.

Group members have scheduled an engineer who works with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission to visit the jail in early November to determine if cracks in the structure affect its stability or integrity, Kidwell said.

“Before we take the roof off and replace it, we want to make sure it’ll hold a new roof,” he said.

The engineer will also check the interior for hazards such as lead-based paint and asbestos, Kidwell said, noting inspection results will help determine next steps.

“The motivation is to restore a historic building, it’s the (town’s) oldest municipal building left standing.”

A tarpaulin that covered the structure for months to help prevent further roof damage was removed at the end of summer, after officials determined it was trapping moisture and humidity inside, accelerating wood deterioration, said Greg Ferguson, Huntersville town manager.

The Historic Society has received three bids to repair parts of the roof or replace it in its entirety, Ferguson said; the quotes range from roughly $4,000 to more than $12,000.

Both the town and the historic society agree that they’d like to address the roof as quickly as possible, but availability of funds will determine the time frame, Kidwell said.

“If we had unlimited funds, we could probably have this done in six months to a year,” he said. While the group will contact vendors and contractors about the possibility of discounted or pro bono services, Kidwell said, they’ve broken the long-term project into numerous phases, with a dollar amount for each that will depend in part on the engineer’s upcoming inspection.

Ferguson said the town will also contact the State Department of Cultural Resources to see if there are any resources or assistance that can be provided.

A specific plan for the restored building has yet to be determined, Kidwell said, but the group would like to see it open to school field trips and the general public, especially when considering its proximity to the new veterans park that will be constructed at Main and Maxwell Streets.

“We want it to be part of downtown, so when people come to the new park or as that area develops, there’s something that reminds them that (Huntersville) wasn’t always new buildings and … concrete,” Kidwell said. “We had some humble beginnings.”