The Missouri State Penitentiary will be considered for nomination for the National Register of Historic Places.
The Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has chosen the historic Jefferson City prison as a potential nominee for national preservation. The prison was first opened in 1833, and its oldest existing building was finished in 1868.
Jayme Abbott is in charge of the penitentiary’s bid for historic preservation for the Jefferson City government. She said the designation would bring a lot to the city.
“It will have a great impact on the local economy,” Abbott said. “And also for the community, since the community does take great pride in the Missouri State Penitentiary.”
The penitentiary features buildings constructed from the late 19th century and the early 20th century. The buildings were built by inmates from the prison using limestone from a local rock quarry.
Camilla Deiber is an architectural historian hired to write the proposal for the historic register. She said the prison’s gothic revival style and its unique origins create a rich history.
“Really you have a merging of architectural style, prison labor and local materials,” Deiber said. “So it’s really a reflection of the place and time that is the Missouri State Penitentiary.”
The prison was the only functioning prison in Missouri until 1963, and it was the oldest operating prison facility west of the Mississippi River before it closed in 2004. It housed many notorious inmates, including Prohibition-era gangster Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston, and James Earl Ray, who was convicted of murdering Martin Luther King Jr.
The Missouri Advisory Council will meet in Joplin on May 15th to look over the prison’s proposal along with eight other potential historic sites.