The Dale C. Maley Family Web Site

Click here to edit subtitle

Fairbury City Jail Photo Op attraction

Our small town, Fairbury, Illinois, pop. 3,800.......still has a couple of jail cells in our 1892 old City Hall.  Although it would make a great photo op for citizens and visitors to take their pictures, it needs a lot of renovation work.......and it is so small that it is hard to get a picture in such a small room. One of our local town improvement group members, saw where another town made a wood photo op........

Our Old City Hall has an outside corner, where we can add a wood wall decorated as a photo op.........

I measured the old 1892 building, and entered it into Google Sketchup.........

I drew up what the old City Hall looks like today, in Google Sketchup, on the South side. The south side doorway is too narrow for the jail cell photo op, it is only wide enough for one person at 26 inches. The west side is much bigger at 40 inches, so 2 people can squeeze in for their jail cell picture. Now to come up with a design of the mock-up jail:)

The average woman is 5'-2" and the average man is 5'-9", so I picked the center of the jail bar rectangle to be in between at 5'-5". On other similar photo ops, looks like you should allow 1 head length above and 1 head length below the average person's head. I used about 12" for the average head length, to size the jail bar rectangle :)

I designed the wall to be standard cedar fence dog eared pickets........painted Old City Hall yellow, to match the rest of the existing trim:)

The shorter woman is the average female height of 5'-2" and the taller woman is the average male height of 5'-9".  The Sketchup Warehouse does not have a good model of a man to use, so I just repeated the female with 2 different heights.

I plan on using just 2 quarter-inch plastic anchors with screws on each side to hold it in place.  That way it can be easily and quickly installed or removed.

I put this in Google's Sketchup Warehouse, you can download a copy here.

Material List:

(8)    5.5x72" cedar dog eared pickets
(5)    2x4x8 ft cedar
(1)    8 foot deck board - plane down for frame
(4)    36 inch dowels 1 inch diam

I should have gotten about 2 more dog eared pickets, because I came up short.  The dog-eared pickets and cedar came from Menards. The deck board from Lowes, and the dowels from Rockler.

Frame in Place

Because the walls are probably not straight on the 1892 old City Hall, I decided it was best to frame the mock-jail in place. I decided to try out using Kreg pocket screws for the framing.  Initially the pocket screws seemed to work ok, but I put too much downward force on 1 of the horizontal 2x4's after it was screwed, and it ripped the screws out of the pocket.  I didn't realize the Kreg screws are strong pushing down, if the screws are on the bottom.

I traced the top arch curve on the dog eared pickets from inside using a pencil.  When I got the frame back to my home shop, I added on about 1.5" to the marked curve, so the frame matches the arch brick curve.


I printed the full scale text words from Google Sketchup onto paper.  I then used a pencil and carbon paper to trace each letter.  Then I used an artist's brush to carefully and slowly paint each letter.  I put the black enamel paint on thick, because I did not want to do 2 coats.

Completed Unit in my home Shop

I drilled 1-1/8" diameter holes for the 1" dia. dowels.  I wanted some clearance so I could slip then into the upper holes at an angle, then move them down in the bottom hole.  I used a galvanized nail through the 2x4 into the hold the dowel in place.

Community Sale Day
I installed the mock jail the day before our annual Community Sale Day. I also made a hand printed sign to direct people to the restrooms, and the city jail photo op........

The mock jail proved to be very popular with families.  Many families had fun getting their picture taken, including our new mayor and his family :)

Closing Thoughts on This Project

This was a fun project to design and build. We are going to store the mock jail in the real old jail in the same building, so it will be easy to install it for future events.  I also installed my little 2-step stepladder for the day, so kids could stand and get their picture taken.  I put a lightweight chain and padlock on my little stepladder so it wouldn't walk away :)


Oops! This site has expired.

If you are the site owner, please renew your premium subscription or contact support.