TROUP COUNTY, Ga. — Troup County has a rich history dating back to the 1800’s. Driving into LaGrange, the county seat, one is greeted by an interesting building. The building has stood in Downtown LaGrange since 1892. It was the original Troup County Jail. The jail has seen its fair share of change over the past 125 years.
“It’s had a long history, a colorful history. It was probably the most prominent building that you could see as you were coming into town in 1892,” Karen Briggs said.
Briggs is the executive director of the LaGrange Art Museum, the institution that took over after the original jail closed up shop. The building housed a furniture store and a news source before the art museum finally took over in the 1970’s. But now, Briggs says the art museum serves as a cradle for creativity.
“A tremendously rich body of work and artists grew indigenously out of the region,” Briggs explained.
The art museum houses works from hundreds of locally renowned artists such as LaGrange native Lamar Dodd, Columbus native Bo Bartlett, and Russell County native Butch Anthony. The museum, marked by a mural on the outside, displays the vibrant history of the Chattahoochee Valley.
With the growth of the art museum, the Troup County Jail had to make changes to keep up with the times. Sgt. Stewart Smith with the Troup County Sheriff’s Office says the jail moved a couple of times over the past century.
“It got to the point where inmates were being housed uptown, and inmates being housed here at the old county jail, which is now the correctional institute,” Sgt. Smith said. “And then this jail was constructed in ’95 to bring all inmates under the same roof. That cut down on having to transport food, transport people back and forth to court and stuff like that.”
The current jail houses around 450 inmates. Sgt. Smith says it’s built for 500 inmates.
“It was built, we’ve got these two pods here. It was built for expansion,” Sgt. Smith explained. “There’s actually room further in the back if we ever had to build anymore.”
Confining bars no longer surround the original jail downtown.
“We no longer hang people,” Briggs said. “We just hang art, and the only thing we put under lock and key is our collection.”
But the former jail and the current jail are tied together through history, and they have two distinct messages.
“I’m glad that the message it’s sending has changed today, that no longer is it a beacon for the law,” Briggs said. “But it’s a beacon of art.”
As the Troup County Jail prepares to take on even more inmates due to a Georgia law that will take effect July 1, they can be sure of one thing. Change is inevitable.