El Paso, TX (KDBC) — The San Elizario Jail, established in 1853, was the first jail ever in El Paso County. It reopened Wednesday after it had been abandoned since 1970.
The ribbon-cutting celebration included a wild west shootout reenactment with the Pistoleros de San Elizario. Vincent Sanchez, the director of the Pistoleros, said his family has kept the reenactments alive for four generations.
"It's the breakout of Melquiades de Segura by his friend, 'El Chivito,' Billy the Kid. It's the only jail Billy the Kid broke into, instead of out of," said Sanchez.
The jail is a big part of San Elizario's history, and now residents are hoping it will be a big part of their future as well.
"To have it open to the public even during our regular business hours, or museum hours of the Portales Museum, would be great, and I think that would really help the district even more," said Al Borrego, a gallery owner in San Elizario.
El Paso County Commissioner Vincent Perez said plans to renovate the old jail have been in the works for years. After funding fell through several times, the project is finally complete. Perez said he hopes the new landmark will help with existing revitalization efforts.
"You'll see lots of restaurants, art galleries, local artists who have located here. It's really a thriving community," said Perez.
The San Elizario Jail will be open to visitors on Friday and Saturday, April 27-28, from noon-6 p.m. as part of the town's annual First Thanksgiving celebration. The jail is located at 1551 Main Street in San Elizario, Texas.