The old Clay County jail building, presently the Clay County Historical and Arts Museum, was quite a modern and efficiently functioning building at the time of its construction in 1912.
The jail was constructed by Love and Lovin, built with concrete and cement bricks made on location. It cost $3,829.00. The iron jail cells on the second floor were manufactured and delivered by The Pauly Jail Building Company of St. Louis, Missouri.
Originally, Sheriff J. B. White and his family occupied the west end of the building, with two bedrooms above and a parlor and bedroom below. The kitchen and dining room were located in the space now utilized as an art exhibition area on the first floor. The cells built by the Pauly Company are still intact upstairs, and two other cells, sometimes used to confine insane people awaiting transport to Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh, were located where the present museum office and storeroom occupy space.
The building originally had no electricity, light being provided by kerosene lamps. There is still a question as to whether plumbing was installed at the time of construction, but it is known that Henry Harshaw and Hill Alston were paid $12.50 for 8 ½ ddays labor on a well adjacent to the jail building in February, 1913.
The familiar brick building remained in use as a jail until 1972 when the Sheriff’s Department moved into its new building constructed on the site of the former First Presbyterian Church. In early 1974, the Clay County Board of Commissioners designated that the old jail be turned over to the Clay County Historical and Arts Council for use as a museum.