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The year the tower came tumbling down

For The Madera Tribune

In 1953, Madera’s beautiful jailhouse tower was demolished in order to build a more secure hoosegow. Before the year was out, there had been three jail breaks.


In 1898, Madera did away with its old, wooden jail and replaced it with a brick and granite building. For years this stately structure, with its imposing tower, stood on 6th Street in all of its aesthetic glory. Then in 1937, a granite addition was added to the rear of the jail, and that’s how things remained until officials decided in 1953, that they needed more room and security. To accomplish this they ordered the destruction of the turreted portion of the jail and its replacement with something more spacious and modern. Thus on January 30, 1953, the brick walls and familiar tower came tumbling down, and in its place, the county built an addition to the granite portion of the jail.

Just as one would expect, there were howls of protest over the demolition of this half-century old Madera landmark. Not only did it have a history; it imbued a sense of elegance from its home beside Courthouse Park. 

The proponents of modernity, however, held fast. The community needed a new jail — one that would keep the citizenry safe from a growing criminal element. Little could they have imagined what the next few months would bring. Before the year was out, three major jail breaks made folks shake their heads in amazement.



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