A single female boarding house (an early twentieth-century euphemism for brothel) shared the block with the original jail in 1912. Set back from the street, the small ten-by-ten-foot wood-framed jail had only enough room for a single cell—which may have been adequate to control disorder in early Troy. In 1916, however, the population jumped from 300 to 700 when the Snowstorm Mining Company started extracting lead, zinc, and silver for use in World War I. Before the mining company arrived, Troy was a “beautiful town,” according to Jesse Walters, wife of Snowstorm’s superintendent. After 1916, however, Troy became “a boom town with the usual drunks, prostitutes, even a murder or two…” By 1926, 1,300 people lived in Troy, mostly single miners, sawyers, and railroad workers. Four brothels bordered the jail, which served as a barrier between the red light district and the more respectable blocks of Troy’s main street. In 1917, a suspicious fire started at the jail, killing its only prisoner, union organizer Frank Thornton, detained for “creating a disturbance.” The City of Troy repaired its jail, which continued to serve the community—however inadequately—until 1924. That year the city contracted with local builder D. E. Crissey to construct a new fire-resistant twenty-by-forty-foot jail from reinforced concrete. Barred windows and the words stamped beneath a bracketed cornice make the building’s function clear, as does the almost complete absence of windows to the side and rear of the building. Three jail cells, an exposed primitive toilet, and bare hanging light bulbs define the interior.

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316 East Yaak Avenue, Troy, Montana ~ Public