Prison tours returning to Jefferson City tourist attractions

Apr 21, 2014

The old Missouri State Penitentiary site in Jefferson City is back open for tours today after closing briefly to deal with a mold problem for tours.

Environmental tests had shown unacceptable levels of mold inside buildings on the site, closing the site down in September.

Old Missouri State Penitentiary
Credit KBIA

The State of Missouri and the City of Jefferson reached an agreement to return the buildings to an acceptable state for tours late last year.

The first tour Monday had 25 people and was a modified history tour of buildings deemed safe to enter. They include access to Housing Units 1, 4, the gas chamber and some of Housing Unit 3. However, Ghost tours will be delayed until the hazardous material remediation is finished in Unit 3

Katherine Reed, a spokesperson for the Jefferson City Convention & Visitor’s Bureau says they are happy to have the buildings available, even if it’s not for full tours.

“The prison is a huge draw for tourism to Jefferson City. Last year, before we had to discontinue the tour, we were on track to exceed over 20,000 visitors.” Reed said. “These people are coming in from all over and when they’re here, they’re buying gas here, they’re shopping at our retailers, they’re eating in our restaurants, they’re staying in our hotels," said Reed.

In an email to KBIA, Ryan Burns, a spokesperson for the State of Missouri Office of Administration, said the Office of Administration is performing roof replacements on Housing Units 1, 3, 4 and the gas chamber in addition to hazardous material cleanup projects. Burns also says the ongoing projects are estimated to cost $2 million dollars. Those costs will be split between the state and the city.

Full tour offerings are tentatively set to begin on July 1 of this year.