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OJAC Staff Blog


OUR HISTORY

OUR FOUNDERS (shown above; left to right): 

Reilly Nail with an early purchase that began his art collection, ca 1950s;
William Reilly Nail, Sr. (1903-1958) and wife Wyldon Burgess Nail (1907-1986) in Fort Worth, ca 1950s
William (Bill) Bomar, Jr., undated
Jewel Nail Bomar, undated

The Old Jail Art Center (OJAC) opened in 1980 with four small galleries, in the first permanent jail built in Shackelford County. The jail was designed and built by the civil architect John Thomas of Thomas and Woerner, Builders, Fort Worth. Construction began in 1877 and was finished the following year at the cost of more than $9,000, which outraged the local taxpayers. Scottish stonemasons carved their initials into the building's large limestone blocks, in order to ensure payment for work done once the fledgling county was solvent. You can easily see why the building was known for several decades as "the alphabet jail." The "M" and the "E" are known to be the initials of stone masons named McGuire and Emery, while the "X" and the triangle are thought to be the marks of illiterate stone masons. Considered very modern at the time of its construction, the jail was used for more than half a century until it was abandoned in 1929 in favor of the "new" jail one block to the west. Robert E. Nail, Princeton graduate, local author and playwright, most notably of the Fort Griffin Fandangle, saved the building from demolition in 1940 by purchasing it for $25. He bought the lot on which it sits for $325 a few months later. One of the few outstanding examples of 19th Century Classic Architecture still in existence, the old jail building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

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