Texas Day by Day
On this day in Texas history…
Albany jail reopens as a museum
December 19th, 1980
On this day in 1980, the restored "old jail" in Albany, Texas, opened to the public as a new art museum. The jail was the first permanent public building in Shackelford County. Construction began in 1877, and the building was completed in August 1878, at the shocking cost to county taxpayers of $9,000. The old jail has housed such notorious outlaws and gunmen as John Selman, who escaped from the place. The prisoners were kept in the upper story, and the jailer and his family lived in the two rooms downstairs. The upstairs had one large room where two cage cells were placed with a walkway around them and a smaller room used as an isolation cell or drunk tank. A new jail was built in 1929, and, except for occupation by an occasional destitute family, the old jail stood vacant until June 1940, when playwright Robert E. Nail Jr. purchased it from the county, using it as a studio and county history archive until his death in 1968. The building was again vacant until 1977, when the Old Jail Foundation was organized and acquired the building for restoration. The jail was opened to the public as a museum and art center in 1980. The Old Jail Art Center's extensive permanent collections include American and European twentieth-century works, Asian pottery tomb figures dating from the early Han Dynasty to the Tang Dynasty, and a collection of pre-Columbian art.