Woman who once called Dawson County Jail home looks on during demolition

Dawson County Jail Demolition (NTV News)

As crews demolished the old Dawson County Jail on Thursday, one woman looked on remembering a time when she called it home.

Demolition began on Monday, and Dawson County Emergency manager Brian Woldt is overseeing the project. He's also working to make sure pieces of the historic building will be preserved.

"The 1928 marker that had been put up when the building was built, we're hoping the museum here in town will take that and a set of bars or something, just as remembrance," said Woldt.

The jail was built in 1928. Old files and permanent records were the only thing locked up in the jail since 1993, when the county's new facility was built.

Paperwork and documents dating back to the 1930's have since been moved to storage or were shredded.

Thursday, as crews hauled away jail bars and cell walls, Jo Swartz stopped by to take a piece with her and get one last look at the home she grew up in.

"I was just driving by and I thought, I'd like to have a least a brick for a keepsake," said Swartz. "We moved to the jail when I was in third grade, on the bottom floor and the prisoners were housed above us."

Years ago, the Dawson County Jail doubled as a home for the sheriff and his family. Jo's dad, John Rohnert, became sheriff in 1958 and served for 24 years.

"A lot of people still talk about him and my family living here. It brings back a lot of memories. They're all good ones, it's just sad to see it go," said Swartz.

As she thinks back on times in her childhood home, she says growing up in a jail never bothered her.

"When my mom would go out of town, we'd cook for the prisoners, and they'd send us notes down and say 'When's your mom coming back',” Swartz recalled. "I always said my dad had a way to put us in timeout, he could just say you and Cindy go upstairs with the rest of the prisoners."

Living in the jail showed her up close the kind of people her parents truly were.

"I always remember her kindness to people and my dad being fair to people that were in jail, because they're human beings, too,” said Swartz.

The jail site will be turned into a parking lot. The county hopes to have the parking lot completed by the end of the summer.

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