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Idaho State Penitentiary -


Haunted Place - Idaho State Penitentiary State Historic Site


1109 Main Street
Boise, Idaho 83702

Phone: 208-334-2844
Fax: 208-334-3225

Regular Hours ......................................Summer Hours

September through May...................... Memorial Day through Labor Day
7 days a week..................................... 7 days a week
12pm to 5pm....................................... 10am to 5pm


The Old Pen is located off of Warm Springs Avenue in east Boise, at the base of Table Rock. Free parking is available behind the Bishops' House in the dirt parking lot.




When the Idaho Territory was less than 10 years old, the need for a prison became evident. So in 1870, using prisoner labor, the first structures were built using hand-cut sandstone. Other sandstone buildings are found in the center yard and include cellhouses 1, 2, & 3, the commissary, the Barber Shop, the hospital, the chapel and a dining hall and kitchen, which was designed by an inmate,George Hamilton, who was a skilled draftsman before he was incarcerated, when he wasn't busy robbing people on the highway.

Around 1923, new additional buildings were built using stucco. A multi-purpose building, originally built as a shirt factory, was quite a large retangle shaped structure, which was used for many things over the penn's long history.

In 1923, a solitary confinement building, located in the left hand corner of the walled prison was also added. Small, dark individual cells with a bed and a toilet were provided.

In 1952 and 1954, concrete was used to construct another 4 cellhouse and a maximun security cellhouse 5, which had the honor of having the Gallows upstairs, moving it from its traditional place in the rose garden.

The years from 1870 - 1934 were free of prisoner riots. This peace ended in 1935, with a melee in the dining hall, with dishes and table going everywhere. 1952 - Major damage costing thousands of dollars to the multi-purpose building resulted when 250 guests of the state took over the building in protest when the warden broke his promise and sent four ringleaders to solitary after an unrelated incident.

1966 - was a peaceful strike by 300 inmates over better living conditions and for the reopening of the commissary.

1971 - A very hostile, 3 hour riot which resulted in looting of prison hospital and commissary, destruction by fire of the social services building, amounting to around $25,000 in damage. 2 inmates were shived and another inmate was killed.

The riot caused moving of prisoners to a modern prison: The mother of all riots happened in 1973, doing about $100,000 in damage. 4 buildings were set a fire; the dining hall and the chapel burned to the ground, leaving just the barest of shells. This violent riot was sparked by the false claims made by a prisoner in the maximum security building who claimed the guards had roughed him up.



Solitary Confinement building - Called Siberia: Cold spots and apparitions are seen here.

The Rose Garden - Being the place where the portable gallows was set up during the early years, apparitions and cold spots have been seen there as well.

Building 5, Maximum Security, death row - An inmate living on death row jumped off the third floor and killed himself. He makes his presence known by causing batteries to go dead, and has been seen as a greenish light.