Founded as a mining camp around 1875, the small town of Globe, Arizona, is the county seat of Gila County in the central part of the state. It’s about 88 miles east of Phoenix and 105 miles north of Tucson.
If you plan a trip to Globe on the second Saturday of each month — or when other events are planned — you can visit the Historic 1910 Gila County Jail (special tours can be arranged, as well).
First courthouse in 1888
It was silver that first brought miners to Globe, but when that gave out, copper was discovered and copper mining is still important to the local economy.
As with other boomtowns of the American West, the population grew quickly. The county Census for 1890 was barely over 2,000, but there were more than 16,000 people there by 1910 and more than 25,000 in 1920. The population was more than 31,000 in 1930 — after which it began to drop, not exceeding 30,000 again until the mid1970s. In the 2010 Census, 53,597 people were found in Gila County.
In the early days of Globe a number of different structures were used for county business including that of the court and sheriff.
According to information provided by the Historic Globe Main Street Program, the first Gila County Courthouse was built by 1888 at the intersection of Oak and Broad streets, with the Sheriff’s Office and jail in the basement. At the time, the Globe was part of the Arizona Territory, which was created from the New Mexico Territory on Feb. 24, 1863 (during the Civil War). Arizona did not become a state until Feb. 14, 1912.
The county considered adding a third story to the original courthouse, but the copper boom created a need for an entirely new building, so the second Gila County Courthouse was completed in 1906, with the Sheriff’s office and jail in the basement (barred windows and the original jail door can be seen from the alleyway).
‘Tough town’ needs a new jail
That space was soon inadequate for the business the Sheriff was doing, and although a report that consideration was given to housing prisoners on the roof may have been in jest, it became obvious that a new jail would be needed.
According to information provided on the Main Street Program’s brochure, Globe was a “tough town” at the time, “driven by the economic engine of copper mining; conflicted by the high investment from the East and the hard labor, liquor and lasciviousness that turned its gears. Gunfights, murder and violence were not uncommon.”
The new jail was completed by 1910. It was considered state of the art at the time, being built of reinforced poured concrete.
A secure walkway over the alley connected the third floor of the jail to the courthouse. According to a 2015 fact sheet, the jail and courthouse were purchased from Gila County by the city of Globe in 2010.
The 1910 jail
The jail is part of Globe’s Historic District, an eight-block area with nearly 80 properties of exceptional design for the time and place they were built. In addition to the jail and adjacent courthouse-turned-arts-center, there are some 70 shops and businesses open in the district, which was added to the National Register of Historic Properties in 1987.
Visitors to the jail will see that the Sheriff’s public office is to the left of the entry. An orientation video provides information about the history of the jail.
Until around the time of World War II, the Gila County Sheriff was expected to live in the jail. Fortunately, the Sheriff’s private quarters included a bathroom (a luxury in 1910). Other rooms at the front of the jail building were office for the jailer and record-keeping.
Heavy steel doors separated the public from the jail cells at the rear. According to the Main Street brochure, the single-lever mechanism that operated the cell block was manufactured by the historic Pauly Company, and was said to have been brought to Globe by mule train from the Yuma Territorial Prison at the time of its closure in 1909.
The cell mechanisms were restored in a collaboration between Main Street and the Bullion Plaza Cultural Center and Museum in nearby Miami, Arizona.
The prisoner experience
At an elevation of about 3500 feet, Globe has average cooler summer temperatures than many places in Arizona — but summer temperatures over 100 are not unheard of, and winter nights can drop into the low teens.
There was no cooling in the building and a woodstove in the front of the first floor might have helped the Sheriff and staff but didn’t do much for the prisoners. Eventually, steam heat from the courthouse was brought over in an attempt to heat the cells.
An article in the Globe Miami Times, describes the “tanks” in this area as a concrete and steel room with seven cells measuring 8-foot by 6-foot, each housing four inmates. There was barely four-foot of standing room between upper and lower bunks suspended from both sides of each cell. Until sometime in the 1950s, there was a toilet and sink in each cell, but these were removed due to vandalism, so that by 1981 when the jail was closed there was just a common sink and toilet shared by the 28 prisoners in each tank.
Visitors are advised that the unique historic structure has irregular stairs and other features that make watching your step important.
A larger set of Pauly cell blocks (another “tank” of 28 cells), served the back of the second floor where men were housed. Women, juveniles and the elderly were double-bunked in cells at the front. Another cell, located at the front of the jail, was used to separate mentally ill or violent prisoners.
A miner named Kingsley Olds was in this cell in 1910, suspected of killing two young girls when he was struck and killed by a shot fired from a window in the courthouse. His assailant was never caught.
The old jail housed prisoners considered less of a security risk in an open dormitory on the third floor. Such prisoners might be allowed to leave during the day, but were expected to return at night and had to follow the rules painted on the wall:
Notice to All Trusties
Trusties are not permitted to loiter down stairs nor outside. Trusties who have jobs are required to go straight to work and return in the same manner. No drinking while serving a sentence, nor going to their homes for any reason. Trusties must keep their hair cut for health reasons. Any violators of these rules will be placed back in tank.
There are many people who believe the 1910 Gila County Jail is haunted.
Among them are Ozzy Mora, a reporter for Channel 12, the NBC affiliate serving the Phoenix area.
In this 2017 report, Mora shared her experience visiting the jail, including a visit to the cell where Kingsley was shot.
At Halloween and other times during the year, paranormal investigators and thrill-seekers visit the jail.
If you’re interested in such activities, do a Google search “Haunted Globe Arizona Jail” to bring up more information.
How to visit
The restored 1910 Gila County Jail is now a museum and visitor center, located adjacent to the Historic Gila County Courthouse, now housing the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts. It is located at 149 E. Oak Street, directly behind the arts center.
The jail is open on the second Saturday of each month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and by appointment. A $5 per person donation is requested. A number of special events are also held at the facility.
For more information check Facebook: 1910AZJail or call (928) 425-0884 or (928) 425-9340.