Digital Exclusive: Berwick Historical Society opens new jailhouse exhibit

Digital Exclusive

BERWICK, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Hidden in the Berwick Historical Society store is a new gem, an exhibit of the Old Berwick Jailhouse which has been restored.

The store is located in the Carriage House of the borough’s well known Jackson Mansion, built in the 1800s.

“In 1950 the Berwick Police Department decided to take over this carriage house and convert it into the Berwick Police Department, and it remained the Berwick Police Department until 2009,” Jim Stout, executive director of the Jackson Mansion, said.

In 2009, the Berwick Historical Society obtained the Jackson Mansion and Carrriage House. The police department’s jail cell remained in the building out of use. When the pandemic hit, the Berwick Historical Society decided to use that time to restore the cell and put it on display for the community.

“We had a lots of guests who would come touring the mansion and would remember seeing that the jail cell was here,” Stout said.

“This room was just packed full, it was like you could barely get through. It took us a good two months to get this all going, clearing it out, repainting everything, and we were just getting very excited about it,” Carin Lewis, a volunteer who helped with the cell’s restoration, said.

Now, the exhibit pays homage to the police department’s history over the years. It has several photographs of the Berwick Police department stemming from turn of the century until modern day, a uniform from Berwick Upon Tweed, the borough’s sister city in England, and other memorabilia. The historical society members say the people are proud of Berwick’s history and heritage.

“A lot of people folks that I’ve spoken to, when we told them we were restoring the jail, were very excited about it. They have family members that were police officers, or, for example, one of our volunteers here at the society, Julie Harman, her father was the man who built this jail – Arthur Hatfield,” Stout said.

Stout says he has some childhood memories of this jailhouse as well.

“We were brought down here on a field trip. We walked down to see the jail. And at that time there was actually someone in the cell and I can remember a police officer standing here, telling all my classmates to behave ourselves or we would end up in the jail cell,” Stout said.

The room also has artifacts belonging to the original carriage house of the Jackson Mansion.

“Other items we have in here are a pocket watch, and that belonged to Jacob Knecht our coachman, we also have a picture of Jacob and a Pocket knife belonging to Jacob.”

Lewis says this the exhibit gives the younger generation an opporunity to learn.

“Just what life was like back then. You know it was very different now, and a lot of kids just don’t learn history that much.”

To learn about Berwick’s history, you can visit the Jackson Mansion.

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