When history tours at the Missouri State Penitentiary resumed in April, they used a slightly different route than they have in the previous few years. Work that continued to repair roofs and remediate mold at the most historic buildings on the site meant that guests couldn’t be allowed in one building, and had access to parts of others.
This week some of those limits were removed, as the repair and remediation work nears completion. Guests can now get into half of Housing Unit 3, a cell block finished in 1918 that once housed Missouri’s death row. The rest of that building is expected to be available some time next month.
Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Diane Gillespie says the popular paranormal tours resumed this week. She says those use all of the buildings the history tours use.
“We will use Housing Unit 1 and 4 and a part of Housing Unit 3 along with the gas chamber,” says Gillespie. “We have had very great success with people wanting to come and book for the ghost tours.”
Gillespie says guests have been understanding and supportive about the ongoing work, and the impact it has had on tours.
“The feedback that we have gotten is that they are just delighted that the state and the city have stepped up to help preserve the buildings and that we continue to be able to offer tours to our visitors,” says Gillespie, “and our guides have done a great job in being able to continue to tell the full story of MSP even if they can’t get full access to all the buildings.”
Gillespie says the patience of tour guests and guides will be rewarded.
“That’s what we keep telling everybody. Yes, we have to be flexible during this season, but once this season is over with we’ve got full access to moving forward for the next fifteen years,” says Gillespie. “That’s very instrumental in us being able to move forward with bookings and offering MSP to convention groups, events and film groups that want to schedule further out than we’ve been able to in the past.”
MSP closed in 2004 and several years later opened to public tours. Since 2011 those have been offered by the Visitors Bureau through a lease agreement with the state, which still owns the prison property. The prison was 168 years old when it closed and had been the oldest operating prison west of the Mississippi.