Column: Taking a look at three old jails and their present status

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 20, 2003

Last week’s column saluting the folks over in Walters for their centennial celebration mentioned that community’s small brick jail. This structure, now located in the city park, was constructed in 1906. One of the local residents said this jail was last used in the 1950s. The now locked up Walters City Jail was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. This building is likely the oldest structure in Walters and logically being preserved as a local landmark.

To the east over in Fillmore County are two more old jails which are now being used for other purposes.

The former brick jail building in Wykoff is similar in size and appearance to the one in Walters. However, this place is now the Wykoff Jail Haus Bed and Breakfast!

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This 18 foot by 22 foot jail structure was constructed in 1913. By 1980 the place hadn’t been used for years and was destined for destruction. Then the Wykoff Lions Club decided to renovate the building. And for the last decade or so, the former jail has become what’s been called the &uot;state’s smallest bed and breakfast.&uot;

The interior of this small former jail is now divided into a sleeping area, a sitting area with sofa and television set, and a modern bathroom with shower. Black and white striped linens are used for the bed, valances and table runner to establish the right decor.

A complimentary breakfast is served to the overnight guests at the nearby Gateway Inn eating establishment.

I called the person who handles reservations for the Jail Haus and asked if this building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. She said this was a detail which may have been overlooked.

Wykoff is located about midway between Spring Valley and Preston and is about a mile north of U.S. Highway 16 on State Highway 80. Wykoff, by the way, has about the same population as Geneva.

Preston, the county seat of Fillmore County, has an old jail building which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. This structure is now the JailHouse Inn and has as its slogan, &uot;The bed and breakfast worth going to jail for.&uot;

The Minnesota Heritage Preservation Association Inc. says the original Fillmore County Jail was constructed in 1869-1870 and enlarged in 1900. Also, in 1900, a separate building called the Carriage House was added and later used as a garage and storage area.

Up to 1970, the jail building was used for the county’s prisoners, sheriff’s office and residence, and for the courtroom. Then the building was vacated when the new jail was constructed.

From 1970 to 1982 the residence portion of the old jail house was used as the living quarters for a couple who owned a local grocery store.

In 1987 the place was sold to another couple who started a project to convert the structure into a bed and breakfast operation which opened in October 1989.

There was a closure of the place in 1991 for a month or two while it was owned by a local bank. Then the JailHouse reopened under new owners

and the last part of the restoration to a bed and breakfast came in mid-1993 with the completion of the Drunk Tank Room.

That’s right, Preston’s JailHouse Inn is like a few other motels and inns around the region with a collection of somewhat appropriate &uot;theme rooms.&uot; In addition to the Drunk Tank, the place has a Master Bedroom, Cell Block, Court Room, Bridal Suite, Processing Room, Parlor, Dining Room, and for some odd reason, the Oriental Room. Several of these overnight sleeping rooms even have wood-burning fireplaces.

In case someone wants to experience what the Rochester Magazine has described as Preston’s &uot;weird getaway behind bars,&uot; here’s a phone number to call. It’s (507) 765-2181. And for those who use the Internet, the key connection is

Tribune feature writer Ed Shannon’s column appears Fridays in the Tribune.