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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.