South Custer Historical Society members will shift their focus to fixing up Mackay’s original jail, which they obtained a year ago, after spending much of the last year working to restore the 120-year-old clock cigar store.
“It’s not that we’ve forgotten or aren’t interested” in the jail, Lost River Museum Curator Mick Hoover said. “It’s that our No. 1 priority is the cigar store.”
The historical society got the jailhouse from a local farmer. The building, which was condemned in the 1950s because of a fire-damaged roof, was going to be burned down by the farmer. His family used the wood building for storage but he wanted to raze it. Before he did, the farmer contacted the historical society to see if they wanted the jail and if they were willing to haul it off his property.
Once historical society members finish the Main Street cigar store they’ve been working on since 2018, the first thing that will be fixed on the jail is the roof, Hoover said. It doesn’t leak, but the roof needs to be patched if the jail is to look presentable for tours, he said.
After that they’ll restore the jail interior to look as it did in 1903, which is the earliest known date Hoover could trace the building to. Hoover plans to use a hinged countertop he found in the jail’s burned attic and a description of the original front door from a longtime Mackay resident to help accomplish the interior work.
Historical society members have a different vision for Mackay’s first jail than they have for the cigar store. The cigar store, with its reproduction street clock, neon sign and stained glass windows that have yet to be put in, is more of a restoration project. According to Hoover, the jail is more about preservation.
Once they repair the jail roof, which has about three-fourths of its original, metal sheathing, society members won’t do much else to the building. Hoover said they want to clean it up and make it historically accurate, but for the most part they’ll leave the jail untouched.
No completion date for the jail or a price tag have been determined. Although, Hoover said he has a lead on getting the jail’s roof fixed in a timely manner. The same person who sold the historical society the roof that now sits on the cigar store said he can do similar work for the jail, according to Hoover.