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Friends of Red Top Jail holding open house, tours Sept. 3

Llano Red Top Jail

The Red Top Jail is just a short stroll from downtown Llano. The structure was built in 1895 and continued to function as the Llano County jail until 1982. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Friends of the Llano Red Top Jail group will hold its annual meeting and an open house on Saturday, Sept. 3, at the historic structure, 400 Oatman St. in Llano. The event includes tours of the jail, food, and live music.

“Our mission is to preserve the jail and bring it to museum-quality status,” said Matt Hilton, president of the Friends group.

The city of Llano gave the group ownership of the jail in 2015. Since then, members have been working to restore and revamp the iconic building.

The Sept. 3 event begins at 5 p.m., and visitors will be able to take guided tours of the building, which was built in 1895 and functioned as the Llano County Jail until 1982. 

The official meeting of the Friends of the Llano Red Top Jail starts at 6 p.m., and all are welcome to attend. After the meeting, stick around for food and live music.

Costly restoration projects and a drop in tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic hit the jail hard, Hilton said, but the Friends group is working to turn things around.

The jail’s foundation shifted in 2011, and the building was condemned. The group mortgaged the building to pay for foundation repairs, which cost $272,000. As it stands, the group has to pay $15,000 annually to cover the costs of the mortgage and utilities. Guided tours, fundraisers, and funding from the Hotel Occupancy Tax are the mainstays of its budget.

Past projects completed by the Friends group at the jail include utility restoration, debris removal, roof and foundation repairs, and painting.

According to Hilton, the next major project is to restore period-specific flooring.

To learn more about the Friends of the Llano Red Top Jail, visit its website, volunteer, or schedule a tour.

The Red Top Jail also has a haunted history. Learn more at 101HighlandLakes.com.

dakota@thepicayune.com