Old Idaho State Penitentiary - Lost River Photos

Having lived in Boise for a number of years I visited the Prison a fair number of times and I highly recommend doing so if your visiting. The site features a number of historic buildings and special exhibitions including the J. Curtis Earl Memorial Exhibit of Arms and Armaments which is a must see even if you don't care about the prison. The 4 1/2 acre site was built in 1870 using local sandstone and inmate laborers. It officially began accepting prisoners in 1872 and continued on as a functioning prison for the next 101 years. 

Growing from a single cell house to a complex of several buildings and holding some of Idaho's most dangerous criminals. Over 13,000 inmates passed through the gates here while the maximum population was over 600. The federal government operated the site until 1890 when Idaho became a state. The prison closed for good in December 1973. 

During the course of its use, there were two major riots that occurred due to the living conditions at the prison.The first in 1971 and the second in 1973 which also lead to the dining hall being burnt down, which you can see in the photos above. Also located on the prison grounds in the Women's Ward. Prior to its completion in 1905 the women did not have separate quarters. Male inmates built a wall around the old wardens home. The building was then sectioned off into seven two-person cells, a central day room, kitchen, and bathroom.  

Over the years the prison has also gained quite a reputation as being haunted and I have to admit that during a couple of the night visit I've been on as I wandered around the cell houses in the dark I've heard a few things that made me take pause. With all the stress, violence and unhappiness that occurred here, it's not hard to imagine something might be left behind. Also housed within the walls of this prison would be the states Death Row. 


The grounds Rose Garden which did actually function as a test garden for the company Jackson and Perkins (still in business today) and tended to by prisoners. It was also the site for 6 of the 10 executions the happened between 1901 - 1926. A wooden gallows was constructed at the site before being torn down for the last time in 1934 due to "moral reasons". The new gallows room was moved to cell house 5 along with Death Row. Whether you choose to visit during the day or take advantage of one of the night tours this room has a very dark and creepy feel to it. 

Solitary confinement building known to prisoners as "Siberia"

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