The Jail’s walls were made of solid brick, its floors were concrete, and the roof was made of clay tiles on wooden structures. Inside, the jailer’s office and living quarters were located on the ground floor. The prisoners’ cell rooms were located on the second floor, along with the hanging room in the tower. The second floor probably had one or more steel cell-block units.

During the cold winter, wood-burning stoves were used to heat the jail and keep the prisoners warm. Their water source was usually a windmill and wooden water tank that stood behind the Jail.

According to records, the hanging apparatus was used only once. The condemned Abram Ortiz was convicted of rape and murder and executed in 1913. No other hangings are on record. Local folklore rumors Ortiz’ ghost haunts the jail by clanking his shackles. Years later, other reports by volunteer firemen bunking on the second floor claim “hearing things” throughout the night.

In 1922, the Jail was replaced by a larger successor. The old 1910 jail saw use as a community center and in the 30’s was turned into the fire station and city hall. A brick “garage” for fire trucks was built alongside (in what is now the Heritage Courtyard), facing McIntyre Street. The firemen’s sleeping quarters were on the second floor, with a pole to slide down to the trucks.

Replaced by a new city hall and fire station in the mid-1960’s, the Jail was vacant and deteriorating. It was then chosen as the home for the newly-organized Hidalgo County Historical Museum.

The Jail was refurbished, the window bars were reconstructed, the roofs repaired and air conditioning installed. The Jail was added to the State list of registered historical landmarks, with a medallion and marker from the Texas State Historical Survey Committee (now the Texas Historical Commission).

The Jail’s walls were made of solid brick, its floors were concrete, and the roof was made of clay tiles on wooden structures. Inside, the jailer’s office and living quarters were located on the ground floor. The prisoners’ cell rooms were located on the second floor, along with the hanging room in the tower. The second floor probably had one or more steel cell-block units.

During the cold winter, wood-burning stoves were used to heat the jail and keep the prisoners warm. Their water source was usually a windmill and wooden water tank that stood behind the Jail.

According to records, the hanging apparatus was used only once. The condemned Abram Ortiz was convicted of rape and murder and executed in 1913. No other hangings are on record. Local folklore rumors Ortiz’ ghost haunts the jail by clanking his shackles. Years later, other reports by volunteer firemen bunking on the second floor claim “hearing things” throughout the night.

The Old Jail museum opened in April, 1970. As the popularity of the museum grew, it prompted a “North Wing” addition in 1975-77 to house more exhibits, collections storage, offices and workshops. Over the years the Jail has remained a significant part of the museum. It still houses exhibits and the hanging room which is one of our most popular attractions.

But after years of standing in South Texas, the unfavorable weather conditions have taken their toll. The chief culprit—rising damp in the porous walls, which is causing masonry deterioration. It has allowed ground water to migrate upward through all of the walls, into the second floor level. The result is slow deterioration of bricks, mortar and wall finishes. Some cracks have also appeared in floors and walls. The chief preventive treatment will be the installation of a “damp-proof barrier.” As of April 2017, the 1910 Jail is being renovated and will continue for the next few months. We would like to thank the community and donors for their financial support in restoring the beauty of the 1910 Jail.

200 N Closner Blvd   Edinburg, Texas 78541

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