South Okanagan’s oldest jail is being eyed for heritage status.
The Oliver and District Heritage Society is requesting the Town of Oliver formally protect the Fairview Jail that was built in 1896.
The heritage designation is in front of the Oliver council on Monday (Feb. 28) for a decision.
The jail is recognized as the oldest building in the greater Oliver area located at 474 School Ave.
Early references indicate its existence in the early 1890s just as the new gold rush town of Fairview was beginning to attract permanent settlement.
When the gold rush subsided, it remained in place to be used for many different things.
However, by the late 1970s vandalism was taking a heavy toll and, rather than see it destroyed, the newly formed Oliver Heritage Society relocated it to a safe location, fittingly adjacent to Oliver’s first jail and police station.
Volunteers moved and stabilized the building, restored the exterior and exhibit space for the adjacent Oliver Museum. The Fairview Jail continues to serve the community well, said Vance Potter, president of the Oliver and District Heritage Society.
Volunteers have been central to its ongoing maintenance and adaptive use and visitors appreciate what the jail has to offer in terms of exhibits and programming.
Jail’s history during the Gold Rush
Special Const. Frederick Elkins served as Fairview’s first police officer from 1897-to 1899. He and the 20 or so officers that were to follow between 1899 and 1927 worked in this small building with its two cells and front office.
Serious crime was minimal, according to the Oliver Museum and Heritage society. Drunk miners were more the norm but criminal activity did take place.
Because of the proximity to the U.S border, duties associated with controlling smuggling and enforcing various provincial and federal statutes were commonplace. By the beginning of the First World War, both mining and the need for onsite policing were in decline. So was the need for a jail and full-time staffing.
The establishment of Oliver in the early 1920s saw the Fairview Jail abandoned and policing services relocated. In the ensuing years, the empty but easily-accessible building was used casually as a granary, a cattle shed, a temporary shelter by itinerants or a hangout for local youth. The province erected a stop of interest sign in the late 1950s.