The Old Jail in Olde Town Conyers was constructed in 1897. All exterior walls are three bricks thick and all interior walls are two bricks thick. The floor and ceiling of the second floor area are constructed of steel with six inches of concrete above it. The front rooms on the first floor have wood sill construction; whereas, the two back rooms are built over steel and concrete with wood flooring. There was originally a central heating system in the building, but no water or electricity.
The main floor consisted of the sheriff’s office, living quarters of the sheriff and family, and a kitchen. The upstairs housed a jailer’s room that also served as the hanging room. A convicted wife-killer constituted the only official hanging in the jail during the term of Sheriff W.H.M. Austen (served three terms during 1885-1909). The second floor also housed a “drunk tank” and a maximum-security area consisting of four cells with a large barred door.
Escapes occurred and escapes were attempted as evidenced by the sawed bars. Other prisoners removed bricks and window frames only to have suffered broken legs when jumping from the second floor.
In 1969, the present Rockdale County Jail was constructed and the old jail was vacated.
The Rockdale County Historical Society acquired the jail from the County in 1975. Renovation costs were in excess of $15,000 and included: total re-flooring of one front room and partial re-flooring of the other rooms. New tiles were installed on the two fireplaces including six Italian tiles which were gifts. A new bathroom and back porch were also constructed.
Funds for this restoration were secured from a Federal grant as well as local clubs and organization within the County. Individuals, too numerous to name, have given of their time and efforts in the restoration of this historic landmark. The jail opened in 1976 as a Bicentennial Project.
As a side note, the first jail in Conyers was located behind the present Courthouse. Mr. A. Riley was commissioned on January 23, 1872 to erect a jail for $2,490. It was constructed of rock and completed in 1872.