The Friends of the Llano Red Top Jail Annual Meeting and tour is being held on Friday, August 30, 2019, at the Llano Library. This unique opportunity to experience and become a part of the preservation of an important part of Hill Country history is in support of the Red Top Jail restoration. The meeting and board elections will take place at the library at 6:00 p.m. A special tour of the jail will be available around 6:30, following the meeting.
The restoration, preservation, and promotion of the historic Red Top Jail has been the focus of this organization since 2015. The restoration work is still in process, while the foundation repairs have already been completed, thanks to their efforts. The roof of the gallows has also been completed, while the work on and replacement of windows, doors, and wood has also wrapped up. The ceilings have received fresh coats of paint, and cracks and plaster have also been repaired.
The Red Top Jail is of Romanesque Revival design and visible from the Inks Bridge that crosses the Llano River. Throughout the era of Llano’s iron ore boom, in the 1890s, the jail’s four-story gallows tower and its red tile roof were a constant reminder to lawbreakers that a conviction meant a stay behind its bars. Constructed in 1895 using local granite at a grand total of $11,500, it served as a place of confinement until 1982—giving Llano 87 years of service. Its intriguing history includes a first-floor home for a jailer or deputy and their family, second-floor cells (eight in total) that could hold a maximum of 32 prisoners, and a third-floor set of cells held a maximum of 24 prisoners.
On the fourth floor were the gallows. Although records indicate there were no hangings, local legends suggest otherwise. As a result, the jail is also home to its share of unique ghost stories. In fact, renovation and restoration workers have reportedly experienced the slamming of cell doors with no one around to do so, mysterious sounds, and even marbles being tossed from nowhere.