Owner, architects recognized for giving historic Kendall County jail a new lease on life

Peter McKnight won an award from the Kendall County Historic Preservation Commission for his work to restore the old county jail building in Yorkville. (Mark Foster -- mfoster@shawmedia.com)

YORKVILLE – Inside the historic Kendall County jail it can start feeling lonely and depressing very rapidly.

It’s hard to imagine that for nearly 100 years, these dimly lit cells held men as prisoners for days on end, awaiting trial or serving jail sentences.

Today, Peter McKnight makes his home in the 1893 brick structure, but in the sunlight-drenched rooms of an expansive upper-level apartment that once served as residence for the Kendall County sheriff.

Now, some real light is being shed on the work carried out by the developer McKnight and a team of architects to preserve an important part of Kendall County’s history.

Not much light gets inside the old Kendall County jail in Yorkville. (Mark Foster -- mfoster@shawmedia.com)

McKnight, along with Allen + Pepa Architects of Geneva, have been a honored with the 2022 Kendall County Historic Preservation Commission Award for Adaptive Reuse of a Building.

Kendall County Board Chairman Scott Gryder presented the award at the May 17 county board meeting for the “Historic Yorkville Jail and Sheriff’s Residence.”

McKnight purchased the 111 W. Madison St. property from the city of Yorkville in September of 2019 for $1,000 and was soon tackling the first job, removal of asbestos and lead paint from the historic hallways.

There was very little privacy at the old Kendall County jail. (Mark Foster -- mfoster@shawmedia.com)

“I like challenging projects,” McKnight said.

And there was all of the rehabilitation work one might expect for a historic building such as this one, including the roof, the windows and of course tuck-pointing for the exterior brickwork.

McKnight said he ended up spending more than $600,000 on the restoration effort.

He credited the county and the city of Yorkville for working with him to make the project possible.

Connected to the original building is an annex which McKnight said was constructed in 1958. It now houses several residential apartments including an Airbnb unit.

At the front of the main building is Skin 101 Aesthetics and Lash Studio, which pampers clients in historic surroundings.

The Historic Kendall County Jail and Sheriff's Residence at 111 W. Madison St. in Yorkville. (Mark Foster -- mfoster@shawmedia.com)