Workers dig up foundation of century old jail in parking lot project

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BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — A county commission project unearths a bit of Beckley history.

President of the Raleigh County historical society, Tom Sopher, said, for decades it was just a parking lot, but more than 100 years ago it was the site of all the county business.

“We never quite thought about why that little parking lot was raised up two or three blocks,” Sopher said.

County commissioners recently began a project to re-grade the parking lot along Prince street in Beckley. The lot sat on top of the foundation of an old jail. County Engineer, Detlef Ulfers, said the foundation was the cause of the lot’s structural issues.

“Where the old basement voids were, they settled and we had all kinds of cracked pavement so we wanted to fix that and get it draining,” Ulfers explained.

The lot was the home of three jails from the 1850s to the 1930s. The last jail to stand on the lot was built in 1915, and torn down when the current limestone courthouse on Main Street was built with a jail on the top floor in 1938.

Ulfers said hammering away at the old foundation was a long and tedious process.

“We’re through the worst of the foundation walls they were 16 inches, or maybe even thicker than that,” Ulfers said. “I think they used a lot of concrete back in those days to make it extra strong.”

The foundation was not their only obstacle; workers also dug up an underground storage tank which was removed by the WVDEP.

Ulfers said despite complications, the project should be complete in two to three weeks.

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