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Monday, September 17, 2012 - 12:00am

Chatham County To Raze Old Jail

Updated: 2 years ago.
The oldest former jail building in downtown Savannah is now used by the Savannah College of Art and Design. It was built in the late 1800's. Another old jail, not pictured, built in the 1970's, is now slated for demolition. (photo Orlando Montoya)

Chatham County is going to tear down one of downtown Savannah's biggest eyesores.

Officials plan to replace an old jail with a newer-looking building that preservationists call more fitting for the city's tourism-generating National Historic District.

The county built the jail at Oglethorpe and Montgomery in the 1970's, a few decades into the historic preservation movement that transformed Savannah.

Inmates since have been relocated to a larger facility outside the Historic District.

Now officials plan to raze the aging jail and construct a modern facility to house courts.

Daniel Carey of the Historic Savannah Foundation says, the building sits at a key intersection welcoming visitors driving into downtown from South Carolina.

"We have to be prudent about what we do with respect to demolition," Carey says. "But I think, in this case, that we gain so much with this exciting new design and the replacement of a building that was not working too well."

Carey says, plans for what will be built after the jail are more in line with the city's landmark status.

"Every building that we put up matters, regardless of its purpose," Carey says. "If it's a mini-mart or a jail, hotel, or a home, it's a reflection on who we are as a people and how much we care about our communities."

Demolition could begin next year but the new building could have to wait for years more for funding.

That leaves open the possibility of an empty lot sitting right across from another empty lot for several years.

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