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Dec 30

It’s a booth, It’s a hut, IT’S A SHACK! updated

Posted on December 30, 2022 at 9:12 AM by Ken Kocher

police shack

Yep, perched on the corner of the square at Main and Jefferson Streets sat Madison’s police observation booth like some sort of hall monitor. These small stations appear to have been common in county seats in this area with both Eatonton and Monticello having similar structures. The construction date is unclear. The first mention of the police shack in the newspaper is in 1956. This leads us to believe that it arrived shortly after the Confederate Monument was moved to Hill Park in 1955 since it occupied roughly the same spot. Madison's was built in May, 1951 as noted in the Madisonian: "Painters are putting the finishing touches on the new police headquarters erected last week on the city square. The small house, is well built, with telephone and other conveniences for the use of the city police force which will make them more accessible than at the City Hall. It will be ready for occupancy within a few days."

Madisonians who remember the police shack recall it with fond memories especially the checkerboard with bottle caps for the pieces. Yet, at the time, it would seem that the shack was held in less than high esteem by some. A booklet published by the Madison Planning Commission in 1961 recommended improving the looks of the shack. When UGA landscape architecture students studied the town in 1964 and wrote Madison, A Visual Survey and Civic Design Study, their description began by juxtaposition of good and bad elements. You can guess on which side the police shack fell.

The following year a Community Development Committee comprised of civic leaders and representatives from sixteen clubs listed removal of the police police towershack as one of its top ten urgent projects. In 1967, The Chamber of Commerce Beautification Committee and the Madison Civic Design Committee engaged architect Henry Toombs to assess the situation. Evidently, City police and members of the City Council told the architect that it was imperative that they have a central structure for observation purposes. Mr. Toombs created a sketch of a Gazebo type structure to replace the shack. Mr. Toombs said that “a building like that shown in [his} drawing would be a decided improvement for beautification purposes.” 

Unfortunately, the committees on beautification had no funds to build the structure. They hoped that the money could be raised through private gifts. The estimated cost of the Police Tower (yes, that’s what they were calling it – it does sound better than “shack”), including copper dome, was $4,800. That’s $34,500 in 2016 dollars. Not surprisingly, no benefactor came forward.

police shackFor two years the committees pushed for the project, but the best they could achieve was to paint the existing shack and give it window boxes of flowers. Finally, Mayor Luke Allgood and members of the City Council ended 10 years of complaints about the shack, voting in July 1971 to remove the hut. It was moved to a location on the City Water Works property. Rumor has it that the shack is now somewhere near Rutledge.

police shack move

Addendum contributed by Jan Manos:
Ken Kocher's blog has inspired me to research the old Police Shack...where did it go after it left the Water Works property?  It seems it was indeed moved again - to Rutledge, Georgia.  It was placed in the parking lot to the left of the entrance into Rutledge.  It stood close to the railroad track and to the Old Dixie Highway.  It seems one night there was a car chase and the police reported the car being chased ran into the old police shack and of course caused damage.  The theory - with no actual proof - seems to be that it was simply torn down after that...however, the investigation continues!

Madison Moments, a weekly blog highlighting Madison's rich history, is a creation of the Madison Historic Preservation Commission in collaboration with other City Boards and Departments. This installment was contributed by the Historic Preservation Commission and written by Ken Kocher, HPC staff. This volunteer board protects the community's wealth of historic resources - most notably the Madison Historic District, first listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.


January 15, 2021 at 10:29 AM
Loved this little story. When I learn a date, like the shack's removal in 1971, I always think back to where or what I was up to at that time. Almost fifty years seems like an eternity, except in an old town like Madison. Heck . . . even Chris L. remembers the shack! Way cool stuff----thanks!

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