-by Joanna Metheny / photos by Joanna Metheny
While most in town are likely familiar with Ripon’s main police station located on Wilma Avenue, some may not be aware that Ripon is also home to an older, much smaller jailhouse on Locust Avenue. Perhaps not nearly as impressive as our modern-day station, the Ripon Historic Jail almost looks like a prop out of an old west film.
Originally built in 1925, the historic jail holds just two cells, a small bathroom, storage area, and small lobby / office area. The building was designed by architect Ralph P. Morrell out of Stockton, who favored the Spanish Colonial Revival style, as can be seen in his still-standing Bennett Apartments in Stockton. The jail was built by a Riponite contractor, L. Ubels, for just under $2500, and originally stood at North Walnut Street.
Ripon’s first police chief came several years later, and was Avon “Tube” Graham. He held the title from February through June in 1946, but quit after serving just 4 months. One can only hope Ripon’s crime rate didn’t prove more than he could handle.
After several decades of active use, on December 3, 1957, the jailhouse was relocated to its permanent location on Locust Street, adjacent to what is now the Ripon Veterans Museum. In order to make the move, the building had to be lifted from its foundation, a job tackled by Ceres’ C&L House Movers for the modest amount of just $950. The last time the jailhouse was in active use was around 1975.
One of Ripon’s best known police chiefs is likely Elder “Red” Nutt, who held the title of chief in the early 1980s. Today, visitors to the historic jailhouse can view not only a photo of Red, but also see the uniform he wore, which hangs on a rack inside the jail’s office space. Red was known for sometimes taking a more personal approach to law enforcement, and was known to occasionally turn young hooligans over to their parents rather than arresting them, knowing the punishment that awaited at home would likely be far more effective.
Over the years, the jail facility began to deteriorate and was in need of rehabilitation to both the interior and the exterior. It was determined that the facility was of historical importance not only to the Ripon community, but also to the San Joaquin County, and a committee comprised of Harrison Gibbs and John Mangelos was formed to oversee the historic jailhouse’s restoration. Many local businesses and individuals contributed to the restoration efforts, including Red & Bonnie Nutt, the Ripon Rotary Club, and Schemper’s Ace Hardware.
Today, visitors can visit the outside of the jail at any time, or stop by on the first Saturday of each month, when the interior of the jailhouse is open for viewing from 10 a.m. to noon. Outside of the jailhouse, there is also a wonderful memorial honoring several local officers who gave their lives in the line of duty.
About the author: For nearly a decade, Joanna Metheny has been a freelance writer specialized in the coverage of local topics and community interest stories. A Central Valley transplant and Bay Area native, Joanna permanently relocated to Ripon and hasn’t looked back once. She loves the city’s proud agricultural history and small town feel. Joanna enjoys spending her time in the community, tending her garden, and discovering local secrets along Ripon’s backroads.