On February 27, 1904, ground was broken for the "new" jail. Contractor A.J. Robbins received the contract with a low bid of $6,738. Its construction is "a concrete foundation with brick walls, laid in 1:6 bond constructed with a six-course belt and little woodwork." The bond refers to the pattern in which the brick was laid and is visible as you look at the building. Typical of the period, ceilings on both the first and second floors are concrete and molded in a barrel form. To make the ceilings, metal forms that looked like barrel halves were used to hold the concrete to form the ceiling. Unlike most concrete applications, the forms were never removed andcan be seen throughout the building. Windows and doors in the building have bars and were constructed with segmental arch openings.
This "new" facility replaced a two-story wooden building described as "old and dilapidated." The building served as the county's jail facilities from its construction until 1971 when an annex was completed. The annex is located directly behind the Old Jail. Both buildings fell into disuse when the county seat was moved from Southport to Bolivia in 1978.
When built, the first floor provided living quarters for the jailer and his family. Later one of the small rooms on the first floor was used as a property room to store items taken in police searches. Located on the second floor, are two steel cells—4 bunks with a commode and washbasin and a runabout around the perimeter of the room. The bars are flat iron riveted together. Windows throughout the building and the front doors are all barred.
Perhaps its most famous "criminal" was Sissy Spacek, who was jailed during scenes from the movie Crimes of the Heart, which was filmed in the building in the summer of 1986. Beginning in 1998, the historical society began restoring thejail in order to open it to the public. Currently the Old Jail houses a small museum and serves as the headquarters for the Southport Historical Society. The "annex" is the home for the SouthportFriends of the Library.
Walk back in time by taking a stroll through the building. Visitors today can see the cells and read the graffiti left on the walls by prisoners from by-gone years.