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Land with historic building donated to the city of Porterd
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The Porterdale city council voted unanimously to enter into a new lease agreement with Lassiter Properties Inc. on the land encompassing the old jail on Ga. Highway 81.

As part of the new lease, Porterdale will receive the rear half-acre plot which the jail sits on, as a gift from Lassiter.

"On behalf of the city of Porterdale, we appreciate this donation," said Mayor Bobby Hamby. "We certainly will put the land to good use."

Defunct and in a state of disrepair since the 60's, the jail once served the city as a holding cell for local residents who were arrested in the city. Many of its visitors were often disorderly cotton mill workers who sometimes had a bit too much to drink, according to Hamby.

The addition of the jail gives Porterdale another heritage site to add to its downtown historic district. Downtown manager Sandy Fowler has been working feverishly with the community, local business leaders and with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to get Porterdale recognized as a Better Hometown, similar to Covington's Main Street program.

"I think this is going to be great for the city," Fowler said. "I am looking forward to the challenge of working on the jail. This is another great step in the revitalization of Porterdale."

Hamby said the city applied for a grant from the DCA to refurbish the jail in the past but since Porterdale didn't own the property, they were not eligible to receive the money needed to fix it up.

Lassiter Properties President Daniel Kiener said the company was more than happy to donate the land.

"We wanted to help Porterdale in their revitalization of the downtown area," he said. "We didn't hesitate to donate the property."

Lassiter still owns the gravel lot that runs along Ga. Highway 81, but the city will continue to lease that spot and use it for parking and community events.

The jail is the latest move for the city to embrace the small mill-town appeal Porterdale enjoyed during the early part of the 20th Century. For years the Bibb Textile Company owned and operated the cotton mill and Porterdale was a burgeoning town. But, changes in the textile industry and the growth of Newton County eventually suffocated the once thriving mill town. However, over the past five years, Porterdale has seen resurgence.

The old cotton mill is now the Porterdale Mill Lofts and is home to more than 100 residents. The mill lofts have been worked into the framework of the original structure and preserved many of the historic aspects of the original factory.The city refurbished the old train depot and has turned it into a historic landmark. Many of the town's elected officials and residents are working toward a facelift of the burned Porterdale gym in the near future.

Hamby said once the council has a chance to talk about the future plans for the jail, a decision will be made to determine what they will do with the old building.

"We haven't really had a chance to talk about anything yet but we will throw around some ideas when we get together I'm sure," Hamby said. "Hopefully we'll be able to restore it and let visitors tour it like a museum."

At its peak, the jail housed up to four inmates in two cells and could even accommodate four more inmates as the main lobby area also contained four bunks. The front door is the same as the heavy iron cell doors. As it stands, one of the interior cell doors is missing while the other two remain.

No time table is set for any decision on what to do with the jail and Hamby said the council is in no rush.

"We'll look into several options and we'll kind of have to see what else goes on down there," Hamby said "Boy Scout troops have shown interest in coming out and cleaning up the area and the inside so we'll see about working with them."