Cell Block Museum board works toward reopening

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

May 26, 2022

The Hill County Cell Block Museum’s new board of directors was recently installed as work continues to prepare the building to reopen. Board members pictured (l to r) include: front row – Brooke Thompson, Gabby Smith, Rosemary Smith, Barbara Robinson, Brenda White (secretary) and Margaret McKown (vice president); back row – County Judge Justin Lewis, Honorable Bob McGregor (president), Karen Smith, Holly Harris (executive director), Jay Jolly (treasurer); not pictured – Russell Keelin (curator), Rhonda Burkhart, Dee Nichols, Sally Crouch, Jason Romine and Milton Peterson (past president).

After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hill County Cell Block Museum is preparing to open its doors to the public once again.

A general membership meeting was held April 9 to reconvene the board of directors and work toward reopening. At this meeting, former museum president Milton Peterson, Max Omberg and Joyce Hollingsworth were honored for their years of service and contributions to the museum.

A new board of directors was sworn in during April’s meeting. The Honorable Bob McGregor was sworn in as the new president, and Holly Harris was announced as the new executive director. The board has also enlisted the help of Hillsboro native Allyson Cliett, who is employed by the Masonic Grand Lodge Library and Museum of Texas to assist in preservation and curation efforts.

The Cell Block Museum was originally the old county jail, built by Lovell & Hood and completed in 1893. The architect was W.C. Dodson, who also designed the Hill County Courthouse.

The front part of the building served as living quarters for the sheriff’s family, and the rear housed the cell blocks, kitchen facilities and sheriff’s office.

Prisoners were kept there until April of 1983, at which time the Hill County Historical Commission obtained the “old jail” to restore and use as a county museum.

Displays include: early Hill County photographs and artwork, original cell blocks used to house prisoners, a number of personal items donated by Willie Nelson, and many other historical artifacts.

Citizens interested in volunteering at the museum should contact Holly Harris at 254-266-4484.

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