This complex of buildings was constructed between the 1830s and the 1930s. Up until the time of its closing in 2004, it was the oldest prison west of the Mississippi River still in use, and was for many years the most densely populated prison complex in the nation.
The Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) was once a thriving industrial site, having been the largest supplier of saddle trees (the wooden support inside a horse saddle), a huge supplier of shoes, brooms, shirts and work clothes, license plates, furniture and metal products.
A master plan was carefully developed in consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office and the public for redevelopment and preservation of this historic site. Preliminary work to gather historical information and study environmental issues has begun. The former Women’s Prison has already been demolished, along with at least eight other buildings in the complex, including the administration building, hospital, dining hall and a housing unit. The remaining buildings suffer from lack of maintenance, and in March 2010 the City of Jefferson announced they had received a Community Development Block Grant to demolish eleven more buildings, including two factory buildings.
While “mothballing” of the complex has been undertaken, the former Missouri State Penitentiary is threatened by lack of state funding for ongoing maintenance as redevelopment has not proceeded at the rate that was expected.
Update: Currently some of the prison is still open for tours, run by the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Update: As of 2020, the walls surrounding the MSP are now listed as Places in Peril.