The Clayton County History Center was previously home to the Allen family and served as the old jailhouse. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)
JONESBORO — Childhood memories came flooding back to Ann Blalock Sligh as she walked through the front door of the old jailhouse on King Street.
The structure, built in 1869, is a sort of homage to the past. The original floor to ceiling windows remain, though are now boarded up. The original hardwood floor is there, but much of it is covered in modern carpeting. The home’s hearths that once kept the family warm haven’t seen a fire in years.
But still the memories came to her.
The first room on the left served as the family’s living room.
“Here in this corner is where we would put the Christmas tree,” Sligh said. “When I was little, this room seemed so big.”
Over the fireplace hangs a mirror that once belonged to Sligh’s grandmother, Ima Cates Allen. Her photograph sits on the mantel.
The room stores relics from Jonesboro’s and Clayton County’s past.
The building is the Clayton County History Center, but in 1919 it was home for Sligh’s grandmother and her six children — including Sligh’s mother, Louise Blalock.
Blalock passed away April 30 — a few weeks shy of her 102nd birthday. She was Jonesboro’s oldest resident.
Before the Allen family called it home, the brick structure was the Clayton County Jail.
Sligh recounted memories of building forts and “having a ball” in the large room upstairs, and how at night she would lie in bed listening for the courthouse clock to chime.
“If I had a nickel for every time I ran up and down these stairs as a child,” Sligh said.
Outside, Sligh described the flower and vegetable gardens her grandmother grew and tended.
“There were flowers all over out here, Sligh said.
“Over there,” she said, pointing to the side yard, “was where we would swim in wash tubs and eat homemade ice cream.”
After Allen died in 1952, her sisters lived in the home until 1971.
In the 1990s, the Blalock family sold the building to Historical Jonesboro.
Since then it has been a museum, holding treasures such as old courthouse documents, “Gone With The Wind” memorabilia and other historical items pertaining to Jonesboro.
A few years ago, the building suffered damage after a clogged drain on the roof caused flooding along one wall from the second floor down to the first floor.
Because of the damage, the building was closed to the public.
Now Sligh is on a mission to get the necessary repairs done and the building opened once again.
With the blessing of Historical Jonesboro Board of Directors, where Sligh serves as secretary, she started a “Save the Jailhouse” campaign.
“This is personal to me,” Sligh said. “Our family is part of the history of this building and there’s too much history here to lose it.”
Sligh said the Jonesboro area has lost too many of its old buildings and homes.
“It has to stop,” she said. “The future is built on the backs of the past.”
Sligh is hoping to raise money for repairs and maintenance of the building. She said she wants to do this in memory of her mother who called the jailhouse home for so many years.
“This would be a very special way to remember Mother,” Sligh said.
The first step for Sligh is to get someone out to the building to determine the extent of the repairs and the cost.
“I know a few trees will probably have to come down and additional repairs to the roof will be needed,” she said.
Anyone interested in donating time to inspect the building can contact Historical Jonesboro at 770-473-0197.
Supporters who would like to make a donation to the Save the Jailhouse fund can mail a check or money order to Historical Jonesboro, P.O. Box 1315, Jonesboro, Ga., 30236, with “Jailhouse Fund” in the memo. Donations can also be dropped off at Stately Oaks, 100 Carriage Lane in Jonesboro. Donors must specify Jailhouse Fund. All donations are tax deductible.
“Every old building has a story to tell,” Sligh said. “And this place has lots of memories.”