The first permanent public building in Shackelford County was the jail constructed in 1877-78. It is described as one of the few remaining examples of 19th Century Classic architecture. The architect was John Thomas of Thomas and Woerner Builders in Ft. Worth. Ironwork was fashioned by Gerard B. Allen of St. Louis. The stone masons initialed blocks of the local limestone to ensure they would be paid for their work, once the county became solvent. The building was abandoned in 1929 for a new jail, and sat vacant for many years. It was saved from demolition by local author Robert E. Nail, who purchased it for $125. He used it to hold his papers from 1940-1968. It is currently the Old Jail Museum, and houses significant collections of art, as well as local archives.
The jailer and family lived in the two rooms on the first floor and prisoners where housed upstairs. Just behind the front door is an iron door with a small slot opening. Cells upstairs were operated by a pulley system. Up the narrow staircase are two rooms. A “free-standing” cell with two units was in the larger room, and the second room housed solitary prisoners or was used as the “drunk tank.” It had a metal door and bars on the windows. Exterior and interior shutters controlled ventilation.