Monday, May 12, 2014

Old Idaho Penitentiary!!!

Idaho State Penitentiary

Oh do I have some fun photos to show you.

I have certain things on my bucket list, places I want to visit, things I want to try, some things are totally attainable, others are a little harder and fit into my "only in my wildest dreams."

One such place that I have always wanted to visit, is the Old Idaho Penitentiary. I had heard about it when we were stationed here in Idaho, and then I had watched multiple documentaries and shows on the place, including Ghost Adventures which I love watching. I was so fascinated by their time spent at the Penitentiary, that I kept telling my family that if we were ever in Idaho again, we just had to go.

Yesterday for Mother's Day, that dream came true. My family surprised me with a trip to the Penitentiary and boy was I excited. If you've never heard of it, it's quite fascinating and sad too.

Guard Tower

The Penitentiary itself is situated in the Old Historic area of Boise, and driving up we saw the most gorgeous Victorian style houses. I should have taken photos but didn't even think of it.

The Old Idaho Penitentiary was a functioning prison for 101 years. It was built in 1870, and the first prisoners arrived in 1872. The four and a half-acre site was selected because of its proximity to the growing agricultural center in Boise and to sandstone, the material used in the construction of the penitentiary’s walls, Administration Building, and cell houses. The buildings on the site were built by inmate laborers.


In 1872, the Idaho Territorial Penitentiary officially opened. The Old Idaho Penitentiary grew from a single cell house into a complex of several buildings holding Idaho's most notorious criminals. The "Old Pen" received over 13,000 inmates with a maximum population of over 600 inmates. There were 222 female inmates, including repeat offenders.


The federal government operated the site until statehood in 1890. The “Old Pen”, as it is affectionately referred to by locals, officially closed in December 1973.


I think for me, one of the worst areas to be in, were the solitary confinement.  Oh my goodness, the conditions were horrible and I felt so uncomfortable and so claustrophobic in there.


Stepping into one of the tiny cells, they were closed by the huge really heavy metal doors.  The insides were barren of anything, just cement rooms with this tiny little hole in ceiling for light.


Being that I'm claustrophobic, this was quite hard for me to do, but I wanted to really see what they felt like in there and it was the most oppressive, sad feeling ever. Although built for solitary confinement, each cell contained 4-6 men.


My son and husband are braver than I, they actually went into the dark cell and asked my brother to close the door while I took a picture.  It gave me the shivers.....

My boys in solitary

Four floors high.  I could not imagine spending my time locked in these cells.  These were the older ones where plumbing was not even available.


Right behind where my son is standing, is a small hole on the wall, and behind there were old buckets that the inmates would use as toilets. Yuck!



The walls are so old, the paint is peeling off.


In this building is where I felt like I couldn't breathe. It felt like my chest was tight, and I wasn't the only one complaining of this feeling, quite a few people in there were experiencing similar emotions. So creepy!


The Women's Ward (1905-1906), it was very small and the building itself was circled by stone walls and separate from the men's.  Apparently the inmates would grow flowers and garden on the grounds. It also housed the infamous Lyda Southard aka Lady Bluebeard who was known for killing several of her husbands to collect upon their life insurance.


One of the inmates, just 17 years old.


Old Penitentiary Courtyard.

One of the famous inmates was Harry Orchard who assassinated former Governor Frank Steunenberg in 1905.  He served 46 years, the longest any inmate served in the Penitentiary


You can see the charred beam from what used to be the Dining Hall (1898). It was designed by George Hamilton (an inmate at the time) and burned down in the 1973 riot.


Where the Dining Hall used to be, most of is completely gone now.


The Laundry Room.


The prison showers.....the sight of a gruesome murder, where one inmate was beaten and gang raped to death.  Apparently it's a very haunted spot.


The courtyard outside the Maximum Security building.


Inside Maximum Security which also housed Death Row and the Gallows.


Idaho's own Jack the Ripper AKA Raymond Snowden was kept in this building, and also hung at the gallows upstairs.  Apparently he didn't quite die right away, it took him 20 minutes to die.  What a horrible death.


Prison officials say that Snowden was one of the most evil men to ever set foot in there.





The Rose Garden, used to be the site where the executions by hanging, were performed. Locals would take picnics up into those hills outside the prison walls and watch the executions take place. I can't even imagine doing that, I would take no pleasure seeing anyone executed, no matter who they were or what they did.


We really enjoyed the tour and we are eager to get back again, because we feel we didn't get to see everything and take our time.  There were quite a few people there so it made it hard to go slow and read everything, felt a little rushed.

So much fun though and a huge part of Idaho's History.  If you are ever in the area I would recommend a visit to the Old Idaho Penitentiary.

If you want to see more photos, check out my album here.


Kar said...

It is certainly a neat place to visit. You should also go to the Botanical Gardens which is right next door to the Old Pen. It's beautiful over there. :)

Mari said...

I would be really interested in seeing this. Such history in that building - and great photo ops too!

Sweet Tea said...

That was so very interesting. I was fascinated , but don't think I could stand to visit. Thanks for sharing the sights!

The Smelly Lady said...

sounds like a very interesting place. Thanks for sharing.

Barb said...

Absolutely fascinating! Next time I'm in Boise, it is on my bucket list! What a fun blog - I'll be back!

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Shouldn't you be concerned that your family thought it was a good idea to take you to jail on Mother's Day? Happy Mother's Day! Now into solitary you go! :)

Terri said...

wow - looks like a cool place to visit but.....I also, would not like those solitary cells. Claustrophobia would definitely set in for me.