•Underneath the Stucco•
At last, we begin our journey through Lancaster County and where better to begin than by drawing a GO TO JAIL card? I’m kidding. This jail really is worth taking a look at for a few different reasons. The most significant reason being the dramatic restoration that is currently taking place. So even if you’ve seen it before, you’ll want to see it now.
Of course, I must mention that Robert Mills designed the old jail and I’ll go into why that matters in more detail in a minute. First, though, the jail was built in 1823 and is located on West Gay Street in downtown Lancaster. The building is three stories and until recently it was covered in stucco. It has been just recently that renovators started uncovering the stone masonry beneath. Many people are now hoping it is left that way. The new look adds a lot of character to the building and really brings out that medieval dungeon appeal we all admire so much.
Besides having a new look, the other main reason to come see this stone bastille is the designer. I’ll admit that I didn’t know who Robert Mills was until I started writing this article. Obviously, I did nothing except sleep in history class. Anyway, It turns out he’s kind of a big deal. For one thing, he is frequently called “the first American born architect”. He just so happens to also be that guy who designed the Washington Monument. So yeah, he is kind of a big deal.
I’d love it if they kept the new look. It certainly is an attention grabber. The problem is that nobody knows if the stucco is part of the original design. I don’t know why anyone would want to cover up that incredible workmanship, but it did seem to be popular at the time. I don’t know how long it will take them to complete the restoration, but I wouldn’t waste too much time if you’re hoping to get a look at the stonework yourself.