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Group returns historic jail to county

Missing shingles and damaged plywood roofing are visible in this photo of the historic Canadian County jail. Members of Preservation El Reno said Monday they do not have the ability to repair the building and have turned the building back to the county commissioners. Photo / Ray Dyer, El Reno Tribune

OKARCHE — Preservation El Reno has given up on its goal of restoring the original Canadian County jail and has turned it back to the county commissioners.
Meeting in Okarche Monday evening, the commissioners agreed to release the group from its 99-year lease on the historic building.
The decision frees up the county to make badly needed roof repairs that are essential to save the building.
Betty Johnston, of Preservation El Reno, said the group has applied for grants, but none of them came through.
The organization’s membership is declining, and it has determined that it could not lead the preservation effort, she said.
“We want to save what’s there now,” she said.
“If we wait for private funding, we’re not going to have anything left.”
Commissioner David Anderson encouraged the group to support the project as it proceeds.
However, the county needed to release the lease before it invested money in repair, he said.
“I don’t want to set a precedent of spending money on something that is leased to a nonprofit,” Anderson said.
Johnston said that Preservation El Reno previously had a bid of $10,000 for the roof repair, but Commissioner Marc Hader said after the meeting that the work could be much more expensive due to rain damaging the rafters over time.
Preserving the jail is important, Hader said.
The building, built in 1907, was one of the more than 100 public building, including the state Capital, that architect Solomon Layton designed.
Preservation El Reno was successful in restoring the historic Canadian County sheriff’s stables.
However, the original courthouse has been lost.
The courthouse, designed by Layton and W.J. Riley, was built in 1901.
It was demolished in 1965 after the current courthouse was built.
Hader called the design of today’s courthouse “hideous.”
He hopes the county can build funds to construct a new courthouse to meet its growing space needs.
It would incorporate some of the architectural feature of the original courthouse, such as using red brick and limestone.
Meanwhile, preserving the old jail and its remaining design features is essential, Hader said.
“Preservation El Reno had great intentions, but it struggled to raise the money,” he said.
“We’ll do our best to get it watertight,” he said.

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