Step back in time as you tour the Kendall County Historic Jail Museum. Paul Barwick and Dean Sprowl, two local collectors and history enthusiasts with a passion for the area’s rich natural and cultural heritage, have poured their hearts, souls, and countless hours of sweat equity into restoring this historic jail built in 1887.
This local attraction houses some rare and fascinating Kendall County and regional artifacts. According to Barwick, “The jail itself is a significant attraction. Many of our guests just desire to see the inside of this historic jail that was in use for 99 years! However, once inside we have captivating exhibits on the first floor that quickly draws the attention of our visitors.”
So how did all of this come about? Paul Barwick, the City of Boerne’s Special Projects Director, and Dean Sprowl happened to meet six years ago when Sprowl was giving a Camel Corp presentation to the Genealogical Society of Kendall County. The two hit it off and Barwick approached Sprowl with the idea of restoring the historical jail. “We knew that the building was available and that on several occasions the Kendall County Sheriff’s Department had considered utilizing the old jail for a law enforcement museum,” said Barwick. “We began by visiting with Sheriff Auxier, Judge Lux, and a couple county commissioners to get some feedback and guidance. Once we had secured our vision for the building we were able to make a presentation to the County. The Commissioners Court liked the idea and we were able to secure a 10-year lease with an option to renew after that time,” Sprowl added. A nonprofit was formed, Friends of the Kendall County Historic Jail, and board members include Dean Sprowl, Paul Barwick, David Phillip, Roberta Belanger, and Ron Cisneros.
Once the lease was signed and an initial improvement plan was put in place, that’s when the demolition and renovation began. “It took us almost four years to make the extensive renovations to the structure and to fabricate the exhibits. We had to save the building. It is basically a new building on the inside with all new electrical and AC, plumbing, plastered walls, flooring and repaired ceiling and windows. We have invested significant sweat equity to make these changes happen and thankfully the county allocated some funding to assist with the renovation work which we leveraged with many favors and financial support from friends, local businesses and contractors,” said Sprowl.
Once the structural work on the building was completed, the pair focused on what would go inside. “Our desire is to present and interpret the unique and authentic history of Kendall County. Our desire is to share a glimpse of the unique people, stories, and artifacts of Kendall County with visitors, residents, and newcomers alike. We don’t want the museum to become stagnant so we constantly improve our exhibits, bring in guest collections and host events to celebrate our shared history,” said Barwick.
Built in 1887, the limestone jail was designed and built by Pauly Jail Building and Manufacturing Company and stood next door to theKendall County Courthouse, built 17 years prior.
The jail housed four jail cells and also served as home to the early sheriffs and their spouses, who would often cook for the inmates.
The jail served as workspace for county employees after its closure in 1987, and as storage space since 2012.
Looking to the future, Sprowl and Barwick are constantly on the hunt for interesting pieces of local history to exhibit. “If anyone has unique local heirlooms, artifacts, or interior or exterior photographs of the historic jail, we would love to see them and discuss the possibility of a guest exhibit. Exhibit space is very limited, so we must carefully discern what to display in the museum,” added Barwick.
Sprowl and Barwick are very pleased with the reception and favorable comments received from those who have visited the museum. Stop on by for a mug shot and experience a few minutes behind bars and learn more about the county’s captivating history!
Stop in on Saturdays from 10am to 5pm. The museum is located at 208 E. San Antonio Avenue in Boerne.