County will return jailhouse lampposts

You’re hearing it here first.

St. Louis County officials will return the old jail’s original brass lampposts to where they belong: flanking the historic old jail’s front entrance.

“We have no intentions to hang  on to them,” Deputy County Administrator Gary Eckenberg said Wednesday.

That didn’t appear to be the county’s intentions last month. That’s when a controversy erupted over the ornate 1920s brass lampposts which the county had removed to use at the entrance of its new sally port across the street from the old jail on Second Street in downtown Duluth.

But that’s when the jail was headed for demolition

“The plan for that building, even if it was demolished, was to reuse anything we possibly could, and the lamposts were something we could reuse,” Eckenberg said.

Since then, however, the old jail was sold to Minneapolis real estate broker Grant Carlson to renovate and adapt it for reuse.

Duluth Heritage Preservation Commission, who had been at odds with the county’s intention to demolish an official Duluth landmark, took issue with the lamppost removals. The county shouldn’t have removed the lamps without the commission’s permission, commissioners argued.

More importantly, since the jail has been sold for adaptive reuse, the lampposts should be returned to the old jail, they said.

Before the brouhaha, “it really hadn’t been a point of discussion,” Eckenberg said. “The lamps were gone long before the building was put up sale.”

Carlson, had wisely  stayed out of the controversy.

Since then, he’s had conversations with Tony Mancuso, the county’s property manager, about getting the lampposts returned.

“We haven’t finalized anything,” Carlson said. “They are very much working with us. They want to see the posts returning to the jail.”

Those details could involve reimbursing the county for the costs of refurbishing the lampposts which, Eckenberg said, cost more than $600.

The county will instead buy replacement lampposts to mount on the two concrete bases installed in front of the new sally ports. The new lampposts are expected to cost more than $4,000, Eckenberg said.

Currently the old jailhouse lampposts are safe in a county storage.

“We’re in no hurry to put them up,” Carlson said

Indeed, that would be premature. The jail faces months of masonry repairs and site work as well as utility hookups and the installation of a new roof as the first phase of its renovation gets underway.

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