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A backup electric chair sits behind bars from the Auburn Prison riots of 1929 in a corner dedicated to the history of Auburn's judiciary system at Swaby's Kangaroo Court on South Street. A law library, original documents of executions and autopsies, and prison memorabilia, along with worldwide artifacts covering the gamut of eclectic tastes, adorn the inner sanctum of Swaby's museum-like atmosphere.

Feb. 13, 1999

AUBURN — "Interesting." "Unique." "Amazing." "Cool." "Eclectic."

Those are just a couple of the one-word descriptions thrown around by more than 100 patrons who received a special invitation to a pre-grand opening bash at Swaby's Kangaroo Court at 6 South St. in downtown Auburn Friday evening.

Local entrepreneur and antique dealer Michael Dwyer has preserved a piece of Auburn's history with his new night spot.

His threats to open a strip club at Willard Memorial Chapel and selling the clock tower from the former Auburn Savings Bank forced other groups to buy and renovate those buildings.

Dwyer bought the Swaby's building last year, and soon began making plans to create a place where people could appreciate Auburn's past.

As a plaque on the wall states, Swaby's "brings Auburn's past together to electrify you with its eccentric collection, daring your imagination to remember. Your past is your future — Welcome!!! and enjoy the electricity." 

A reproduction of a "death chamber" is tucked away in one corner of the large brick-layered building that used to be occupied by the Auburn International Beauty School and a blacksmith shop in its earlier years. A backup electric chair from Auburn Prison sits in the chamber, behind jail cell bars from a cell at the prison from the 1929 fire.

Original electrocution documents, Auburn newspaper clippings from the Oct. 29, 1901 execution of Leon Czolgosz, autopsy reports from executed prisoner Andrea Del Vermo in Nov. 16, 1908, and a law library occupy the shelving and wall space of the Kangaroo Court.

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— Compiled by David Wilcox