missouri state penitentiary

Old Missouri State Penitentiary

Jefferson City officials are excited about the potential for 32 acres of land at the old Missouri State Penitentiary that the city now owns.

Gov. Eric Greitens on Tuesday signed a law that transferred the land to the city, which is discussing ways to develop the area to attract tourists.

The Jefferson City News-Tribune reports 128 of the site's 140 acres are undeveloped. With the land transfer, the state will still control 95 acres at the site.

j.stephenconn / flickr

Missouri and Jefferson City officials have been planning renovations on the Missouri State Penitentiary since before it closed in 2004. 

Rep. Mike Bernskoetter proposed SB 486, which transfers ownership of the nearly 32 acres around the penitentiary from the state to Jefferson City. The bill received initial approval from the state Senate in March and final approval from the state House on Monday. Bernskoetter said this approval is a major step toward the bill’s success.

Michael Allen / flickr

One of mid-Missouri's fastest growing tourist attractions is a place where nobody wanted to be prior to its closing in 2004 — the Missouri State Penitentiary.

The Jefferson City News Tribune reports that 32,811 people this year visited the old state prison, a haunted-looking place that first opened in 1836. The number of visitors was a 25 percent increase over 2015. And Mayor Carrie Tergin noted that as recently as 2009, just 3,000 people visited the landmark.

Missouri State Penitentiary
File Photo / KBIA

The Missouri State Penitentiary will be considered for nomination for the National Register of Historic Places.

The Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has chosen the historic Jefferson City prison as a potential nominee for national preservation. The prison was first opened in 1833, and its oldest existing building was finished in 1868.

Penitentiary tours re-open to public

Apr 25, 2014
Old Missouri State Penitentiary

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. 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.

Old Missouri State Penitentiary

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.

Old Missouri State Penitentiary

The Jefferson City News-Tribune reports that tours in limited areas of the Missouri State Penitentiary are scheduled to resume April 21.

Public tours were stopped last fall after high levels of mold were discovered. The Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau announced that full walkthroughs of the facility would begin July 1.

Last year, the city agreed to split with the state the estimated $2 million in repair costs and mold remediation at the former prison.

The Missouri State Penitentiary has cancelled its tours for the rest of the 2013 season, a move that could hinder potential tourism in Jefferson City.

The Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau announced Wednesday that state testing found a mold problem at the penitentiary. The state prohibits anyone from entering the building until it’s cleared up. Convention and Visitors Bureau spokesperson Ryan Burns said she hopes the closing will not keep future visitors away.

Samantha Sunne / KBIA

Water use has become a hot issue among Midwest farmers after this summer's drought. Nebraska irrigates more acres of farmland than any other state in the nation. Kansas is also near the top. And that Irrigation infrastructure helped some farmers keep the drought at bay this year. Their fields stayed green long after others withered away. But as Grant Gerlock reports for Harvest Public Media, using so much water now may force some farmers to use less water in the future.

Lukas Udstuen / KBIA

As a 5-piece band wound its way through an acoustic set of music, guests slowly shuffled into the “Inside the Walls” festival at the Missouri State Penitentiary. To the southwest, the main entrance to the prison towered over the festival.

Charles Vaughan used to live in a house across the street. He remembers the 1954 riots, which were the worst in the history of the penitentiary. Vaughan remembers his dad and brother were on top of a nearby building with guns.

“There was a big fire going on," he said. "My mom was keeping me in the house which upset me because I wanted to get on the roof and my mom was piling furniture right in front of the front door.”

But now the penitentiary looks much lonelier. Its paint peels. Some of its buildings have been torn down. In fact — of those that remain, some parts are even off limits to tours – this is due to a process Steve Picker calls “demolition by neglect.” He’s the former executive director of the Jefferson City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Hear a former inmate's story from MSP

May 25, 2012
Samantha Sunne / KBIA

One man’s historic building is another’s nightmarish living conditions. Listen to the audio to hear former MSP inmate Joshua Kezer talks about what it was like to be incarcerated for 10 years in one of the oldest prisons in the U.S.

Films, events, donations fund other aging prisons

May 24, 2012
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc

The Missouri State Penitentiary is one of the oldest prisons in the country, but there are even older ones that survived both centuries of inmates and decades of decay. The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield and the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia are now fully operating tourist sites.

Samantha Sunne / KBIA

An update on the EEZ in Columbia. Plus, some say the situation at the old Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City is getting desperate.

"Neglect" a threat for Missouri State Penitentiary

May 23, 2012
Samantha Sunne / KBIA

The Missouri State Penitentiary closed in 2004 due to deteriorating conditions at the 150-year-old facility. KBIA’s Samantha Sunne explains how this deterioration has continued into the prison’s life as a Jefferson City tourist destination and historic landmark.