Old Ellsworth jail in danger of being torn down

Old Hancock County Jail
Old Hancock County Jail(WABI)
Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 6:21 PM EDT
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ELLSWORTH, Maine (WABI) - For more than 30 years, Hancock County has leased the old jail to the Ellsworth Historical Society.

But a deed says the county can take back the building if it’s not maintained.

Now, the building isn’t just in danger of changing hands, it’s in danger of being torn down.

The old Hancock County Jail was built in 1886 and is one of the last remaining jails designed to incorporate a home for sheriffs and their families.

Now as the home of the Ellsworth Historical Society, it may not be around much longer.

“One of the things that got neglected was the structural integrity of the building, and over the years, time took its toll and we started seeing deterioration in the building,” said Bill Fogle, Ellsworth Historical Society president.

As membership numbers fell over time, the damage got worse.

“So the society found themselves in a position where they were unable to afford to restore the building, and we’re talking more about the structure; keeping water out, and the bricks standing. So that’s what we’re facing today,” Fogle said.

Any structural upgrades done to the old jail over the years have essentially just been short term fixes. For the historical society to save this building, it’s going to take a significant amount of money, in a short amount of time.

“We would have to get about $2 million. We just had a structural analysis of the building, and it was thought that the building is going to be structurally sound for a year or two, but in about three or four years there’s a strong possibility that there’s a danger of it collapsing,” Fogle said.

If the historical society can’t come up with funds for restoration in that time, the county would take ownership of the building, and demolition is then a very real possibility.

“Long-term residents would feel a sense of loss. New residents would suffer the loss of a historic building in what is the single historic district in Ellsworth. We only have one historic district, and it includes city hall, the library and this building. I think it makes everyone feel very sad,” Fogle said.

For more information or to donate to the Ellsworth Historical Society, visit

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