HUNTERSVILLE – In the 1930s, Charlotte-area towns housed its criminals in small jails. Huntersville was no different, keeping its law-breaking residents in a two-room brick jail off Huntersville-Concord Road. The town built the 30-foot wide, 21-foot deep jail around 1935, when Huntersville’s population was near 1,000.
Crime was a major issue in rural communities at the time of the Great Depression, which necessitated the jail’s construction. While the building hasn’t been in use as a jail since the 1960s, its importance to Huntersville remains significant, according to historic landmark supporters.
Huntersville commissioners are expected to vote on whether to designate the jail a historic landmark in the town board’s April 7 meeting.
The building, according to Principal Planner Zac Gordon, is in need of repair. Its roof, in a report to the town board, is in poor shape and some roof framing and millwork are also damaged. The roof is covered with a tarp.
There would be a tangible benefit to the jail’s aesthetics if it earns historic landmark status.
“A historic designation would likely assist in securing grants and/or fundraising efforts,” Gordon said.
The income from fundraisers and grants would enable the property to undergo extensive repairs to the jail.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission unanimously supported the jail earning historic status in the commission’s Feb. 10 meeting.
In a letter to CMHLC Preservation Planner Stewart Gray, National Register Coordinator Ann Swallow said Huntersville’s town jail “is historically important as the municipal facility for detaining individuals arrested for breaking the law in the community … it has very good integrity from the period when it served an important law enforcement function in Huntersville.”
The town jail usually housed people arrested for drunkenness, Gordon said in a town report, when it was in use.
“Most of the first-person accounts of the jail involve incarceration for inebriation,” Gordon said. “Even though citizens had voted in 1937 to keep the county dry, Mecklenburg had a reputation as the ‘driest voting, wettest drinking’ county in North Carolina.”
The property on which the jail sits, surrounded by a chain-link fence, is valued at $41,700.