Hilliard History Lives: Old jail-cell exhibit could be most wanted attraction

Tim Woodruff
Guest columnist

Hilliard’s first bank robbery occurred in 1910.

The perpetrators escaped with $5,200 and never were captured. The money also was not recovered.

Tim Woodruff is president of the Hilliard Ohio Historical Society.

Thus began the thinking Hilliard might not be as safe as it should be, and official action followed, albeit gradually.

In 1902, city administrators had decided Hilliard needed police protection.

However, it took 14 years of discussions and official red tape before the city finally hired its first marshal.

It took another 13 years before the official approval and construction of Hilliard’s first jailhouse.

This structure, which housed an office room and two jail cells, was on Norwich Street, one block north of Main Street. The building still exists, but it is not used as a police or jail facility.

The old jailhouse mainly was used for misdemeanor cases. If a more serious crime was committed, such as a felony, the inmate was processed at the jail and then transported to the Franklin County jail in Columbus.

One memorable incident involving the jailhouse came in 1962.

Members of the Hilliard High School football team, on the evening of winning the Mid-8 League championship for the fourth year in a row, unwisely decided to “paint the town." The crime scenes were at the intersections of Norwich Street and Cemetery Road and Norwich and Main streets. (On the advice of my lawyer, I will not admit to any participation in these acts.)

Only through extreme luck were the police able to capture a small group of the perpetrators. They were incarcerated, processed and later released into the custody of their parents because they were minors. Need I say that community service, in the form of removing the paint, was the sentence, and eventually, the juvenile records were expunged.

This criminal action, along with the growth of the city of Hilliard, showed the need for a newer, larger and more secure facility. A new jail was approved and built on Water Works Drive, where the offices of U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers are today at 3790 Municipal Way.

Eventually, the police station and jail were moved to the Joint Safety Services Building at 5181 Northwest Parkway.

The reason for writing this nonincriminating documentary is to let the public know that thanks to the Hilliard Ohio Historical Society and the Hilliard Division of Police, an original set of jail-cell bars and window have been saved and preserved for years – thanks to John Hall – and recently were donated to the historical society. They are being installed in a new display constructed as a jail cell on the porch of the museum at the Historical Village at Weaver Park.

At the time when the old jail cell was new, the state of Ohio required that a spare cell key be stored off-site in case of an emergency. Through some amazing detective work, no pun intended, the historical society was able to determine that one of Hilliard’s finest retired police officers, Bob Parkey, had stored the spare cell key in his basement for years. He was gracious enough to donate the key, and to our amazement, it still works on the cell door.

Related story:Hilliard’s Bob Parkey wraps up 40 years in law enforcement

In addition, Hilliard officers Hyda Slone and John Higgins have donated a variety of other Hilliard police memorabilia for the display at the museum.

The Historical Village, which is adjacent to the Franklin County Fairgrounds at 4100 Columbia St., is closed for the winter season, but when it reopens in spring or for special occasions, the Hilliard Ohio Historical Society would like to invite all residents of the community and those beyond to visit for a picture taken behind the bars of the jail.

The rest of our amazing buildings and preserved historical artifacts also will be available for viewing. New attractions include the monument to a local soldier who served in the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army under the command of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn and an elevated model train in the historic train station. We also have an 1890 child’s metal tricycle manufactured in Toledo and a very nice doll house with all the miniature items beautifully displayed.

Related story:Grave marker keeps Little Bighorn soldier’s memory alive in Hilliard

Check our website, hilliardohiohistoricalsociety.com, for reopening information, or make a reservation or appointment by calling 614-876-5880.

Tim Woodruff is president of the Hilliard Ohio Historical Society. The historical society's Hilliard History Lives guest column is a periodic feature in the ThisWeek Hilliard Northwest News.