Delaware County has an intriguing opportunity for anyone aiming to own a piece of history.
County commissioners in late February agreed to seek bids for the former jail and sheriff's residence, 20 W. Central Ave. at the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Franklin Street in Delaware's Downtown Historic District. The Queen Anne-style building -- the third jail facility to occupy the site -- was constructed in 1878, according to the Delaware County Historical Society.
The county will accept sealed bids for the property until 2 p.m. April 5. Jon Melvin, the county's director of facilities, said commissioners could choose to retain the property at the end of the bidding period.
"We have set no minimum," he said. "The board obviously has the right to reject all bids."
The structure now houses the Delaware County Law Library and offices for the Fifth District Court of Appeals. Melvin said the entities will move to different county buildings if the old jail sells.
While the jail has not held inmates since the mid-1980s, a portion of the building featuring prison cells has not been repurposed.
County spokeswoman Jane Hawes said when the structure was built, the sheriff was expected to live in the residential section of the building and his wife was expected to cook for the inmates.
Hawes said county officials think the building's central location, distinctive history and "good bones" could attract a buyer.
"We've kept it in good shape," she said. "It's not like it's falling down."
The structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, which limits what changes a new owner could make to it.
"Somebody would not be able to buy it and do a tear-down," Hawes said.
Melvin said the building's status as a historic structure also could lead to benefits for a new owner. He said tax incentives are available for people who seek to rehabilitate such properties.
County Commissioner Jeff Benton said the perks of owning a historic building in downtown Delaware could outweigh the challenges for a bidder.
"It's a great location and a neat building," he said. "It needs work. I think everybody knows that."
Melvin said he views the building as a potential law office because of its proximity to the county courthouse.
The potential sale comes amid a major effort by the county to consolidate its offices. The move follows the construction of a new, five-story courthouse in downtown Delaware and the commissioners' decision to acquire the Delaware Area Career Center's north campus, which sits on 64 acres of land off state Route 521 in Brown Township.
The completed construction effort and the acquisition of the career center campus, of which the county expects to take possession in summer 2019, have led county officials to consider selling multiple county-owned buildings.