Brentsville jail renovations complete - INSIDENOVA.COM: Brentsville

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Brentsville jail renovations complete

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Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014 2:10 pm

Building stabilization, archeological work and masonry restoration are complete at the historic Brentsville Jail.

Heating, cooling and electricity have been installed, the plasterwork is done, doors have been installed and the fireplaces repaired.  All that’s left to do is pull together the exhibits to present a historic interpretation focused on what happened in the jail during the antebellum period.

Last year, the Prince William Historical Foundation received a $5,000 grant from the National Underground Railroad to Freedom (NTF) Program.  The NTF helps historic sites interpret the history and heritage of African-Americans during the antebellum time frame. 

The county’s Historic Preservation Division requested an additional grant of $10,000 from the NTF, which was matched by a donation of $10,000 from the foundation.  In addition to the grant from the NTF, the foundation recently accepted $15,000 in donations to match a $15,000 grant from Bill Olson, who is a foundation member.

Putting all of the money together will allow the Prince William Historic Preservation Division to bring together exhibits that will include artifacts ranging from children’s toys to soldiers’ boots. 

Brendon Hanafin, the county’s Historic Preservation Division Chief, said the exhibits will highlight the crime and punishment of slaves.

Visitors to the jail will see replications of jail cells, complete with rough-hewn timbers and iron, and will learn of the conditions under which imprisoned slaves lived.

“We’re going to make these rooms so they’re like what they looked like then,” Hanafin said. “They were dark. There was no ventilation. There was no heating, no cooling, little windows, and bars on the doors. So you’re going to walk into these things, and you’re going to be immersed in how horrible it would have been to have been in there.”

Hanafin said the plight of slaves is an “under-interpreted” history.

“The justice system was primarily slave-based,” he said. “The slaves were being captured and held in the jail. It was slaves being tried with no representation. Twelve out of the 13 folks hanged there were slaves. We really want to educate people about that period of our history.”

The project, which started in 2010, is scheduled for completion in 2015.

-- Submitted 

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  • leprecaun jon posted at 7:17 pm on Sat, Feb 1, 2014.

    leprecaun jon Posts: 4

    i live around the corner ( about a mile and a half) from the historic brentsville sites, and am quite existed to see this project finally coming to ends, i have been waiting for a while for this and will enjoy the exhibits my self. what is our country if we forget the history that made us....good or bad...Brentsville is notorious for being a slave market.. period...but the history of this country... though brief is fascinating to me... as are the actions people take to try and erase the scars that are forever imbedded in the history of this country... forgetting is almost as damaging as the events them selves.... educating and remembering teaches us to grow and what its worth to fight for our rights and freedoms.

  • CCW posted at 6:47 pm on Fri, Jan 31, 2014.

    CCW Posts: 373

    Never, ever let the truth get in the way of a political agenda.

    For instance, at the same time that there are demands for the government to remove all of the Confederate reminders of the Civil War era, eg: change road names, make displaying the Confederate flag a racist based felony, we now have a historic jail applauded for resurrecting and preserving the same thing.

    As for your comment that more whites were incarcerated in Brentsville Jail than people of color, add to it the fact that the first slaves brought into what is now America were whites. That is never mentioned. Indentured white slaves that were treated with savage brutality the equal, or worse than anything that the black slaves that came later on ever endured.

    Albeit hence, speaking about those kinds of truth will quickly put a Mark of Cain bulls-eye in the center of your forehead..

  • Histo posted at 1:11 pm on Fri, Jan 31, 2014.

    Histo Posts: 1

    I would like to question some statements in this article regarding slaves. The slaves in Prince William County legal system ALWAYS had court appointed attorneys representing them. As far as the comment 13 people were hung at Brentsville and 12 were slaves is also not accurate. The records only show 7 persons hung at Brentsville and only 5 of these were slaves. As for the statement that the justice system was slave based is deceiving as more whites were incarcerated than people of color in Brentsville.