The Old Collin County Prison is one of Texas’ oldest nineteenth century county jails substantially in original condition. It is a Victorian Italianate structure designed by Austin architect F. E. Ruffini. The prison, completed in 1880, is constructed of rough-cut blocks of fossilized limestone quarried at Squeeze Penny.
The building was originally constructed as a two-story, T-plan building. The two-story front portion of the building contained the jailer’s quarters while the mid-portion of the T contained the cellblocks.
Prior to the prison’s recent rehabilitation, the building had undergone two major renovations, one in 1900 and another 1939. The 1900 renovation added new detention cells while the other cells were restored to perfect condition. In order to carry out executions, a dungeon-like cell with a trap door was installed. At the time the prison could house 50 prisoners in 8 rooms. A.J. Atkinson, “Uncle Andy,” was the jailer.
On November 17, 1922, Ezell Stepp was hanged for the murder of Hardy Mills. He was the last man legally hanged in Collin County prior to executions being moved to Huntsville.
In 1939 the 1st and 2nd floor cellblock levels were renovated, modernized and the north wall of the cellblock area was extended to the north to create more floor space. This work was overseen by architect John Astin Perkins of McKinney. It is not clear if a dungeon or basement was filled in during this renovation.
The prison closed in 1979 due to an increase in the county’s population and prison reforms that demanded better conditions for prisoners. In 1983 the prison was listed as a contributing structure to the McKinney commercial Historic District as part of the National Register of Historic Places. The building is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
Today the Prison houses an accounting office. Prior to its use as an office, the building was the home to two restaurants, a children’s bookstore and an art gallery.