Rockwall County

Royse City

Royse City

This calaboose is located in “Old Jail Park” in downtown Royse City.  It is adjacent to the parking lot of the post office at 217 East Main (south side of street) and is between the city water tower and railroad tracks.  It measures 4.93 meters across the front and 2.43 meters on each side (128.9 square feet).  There are two cells that are equal in size.  Each cell has two windows, one on each side and one on the front wall.

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View of back of calaboose and window on side

The door on the left is missing, and modern rebar designed to replicate a cell door has been installed. This structure is in poor condition as evidenced by visible holes and cracks in the walls.  In some areas where the stucco has peeled away, the joints between the layers of poured concrete are exposed.  There is no visible evidence of reinforcing bar (aka rebar) in the wall profiles.  The wall profile shows a higher than normal ratio of aggregate to cement and this is probably the reason for the settling and ultimate crumbling of the walls.

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The roof was probably poured last because a form would have to have been in place.  In order to install the wooden boards on the ceiling, a ledge was probably created by thinning the walls a few inches to form a shelf or casting a shelf that projects from the interior wall.  Either method would be a deviation from the normal casting process but they would use less concrete. A coat of stucco painted with whitewash was applied to the exterior creating a rough look. The use of stucco was considered to be a cosmetic treatment, but it also protected the underlying concrete from additional cracking and deterioration.  Similar stucco treatments were applied to buildings that were constructed from 1910 through the 1930s.

According to Millie Jean Coppedge in an article entitled “Reminiscing Royse City” published on May 7, 2009 in the Royse City Herald Banner,  “… no one can be found who remembers when it was built or even the exact date of when it was no longer used.”  Her article states that several citizens have said it was no longer being used during the 1940s.  Zaner (Robinson) Benetin owned the  Royse City American Newspaper from 1942 until 1973.  She said in 1942 it was no longer being used as a jail.  Since it does not appear on the Sanborn map dated 1911 but is depicted on the map dated June 1921 (Sheet 3), it was built sometime between 1911 and 1921.  On the 1921 Sanborn map, it is on the southeast corner of Block B between Main Street to the north and the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad tracks to the south.  Most informants have said that it was mostly used for less dangerous offenders such as drunks.  They were usually released the next day once they sobered up. Often the drunks’ boss would come to the jail on Monday mornings and bail out his employee or employees so they could return to work.  Murderers and serious offenders were taken to Dallas to be incarcerated.

This jail was preceded by a one-story wood calaboose depicted on the Sanborn map dated 1901 (Sheet 2).   It was in the middle of city block “C” next to an ironclad warehouse at 343 ½ Main Street and behind a billiard parlor and cobbler shop at 341 and 342 Main and near the tracks of the Missouri Kansas and Texas Railroad.  It was still there in 1906 (Sheet 3), but now the warehouse was gone and a wooden bandstand was the only structure at 341 and 342 Main Street.  In 1911 (Sheet 4), it was still there but now there was a row of brick business in the 300 block of Main including the Grand Central Hotel.  In 1921 (Sheet 2), it was gone and the hotel was now called the Grand Palace Hotel.  That same year (Sheet 3), a small, one-story concrete jail was next to a water tower between city block C and the railroad tracks.

At one time, there were those who wanted to move or destroy it.  Ms. Benetin was in the Rotary Club and this organization was able to preserve it and they are responsible for its maintenance. This area was turned into a park and is now called the “Royse City Old Jail Park.”   I am grateful to Julia Bryant, Executive Director of the Royse City Chamber of Commerce, for her assistance in documenting this calaboose.  This structure conforms to Floor Plan 2a (see Floor Plans).  It has been recorded at TARL as historic site 41RW28.

Ms. Bryant is trying to find a way to protect this piece of local history for the long term.  Because it rests in an area below the surrounding terrain, the jail floods and standing water over time will probably cause its ultimate collapse.  The pictures below illustrate the effects of heavy rain.

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