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Prison closing may spawn museum and death chamber tour

In Jefferson City, Missouri, the Missouri State Penitentiary Redevelopment Commission is crafting grand plans for the 47-acre penal facility, once the largest in the U.S. The proposal includes transforming one of the old buildings -- the prison first opened in 1836 -- into a historical prison museum, and conducting tours of cells, the convict shoe factory, and Missouri's gas chamber. The prison has a rich heritage of riots, building arson, and has been home to such notable offenders MLK killer James Earl Ray, heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston, and Pretty Boy Floyd, among others.

Jefferson City currently offers a couple of other interesting museums: The Missouri Veterinary Museum, 1221 Jefferson Street; and the Missouri Highway Patrol Safety Education Center, 1510 E. Elm St., featuring law enforcement memorabilia, old highway patrol cars, Otto the Talking Car, displays on Bonnie and Clyde and Machine gun Kelly, and a 1987 Ford Escort that was totalled when a drunk hit it. The drunk died. The safety-restrained mother and child lived.

May 2009: The Penitentiary has finally opened for tours after being closed for five years. Visitors get to see the prison dungeon and gas chamber, but they have to wear hard hats because parts of building are unstable.

[12/20/2003]
Address:
115 Lafayette St., Jefferson City, MO
Directions:
From US-50 exit onto Lafayette St., then drive north four blocks, past Capitol Ave., to the prison.
Hours:
Mar.-Nov. Tours last 2-3 hours. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
866-998-6998
Admission:
Adults $15 history tour, $26 ghost tour, other tours
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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