Monday, September 2, 2013

Old Idaho Penitentiary

I was with Linda and her sister Jo Ann in Boise, Idaho, where we met Lisa, a friend from my 365 project, and went to the Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site.  The penitentiary was used as a prison from 1870 to 1973 and is a picturesque complex of old and newer stone buildings.
There is so much history here.  For example, this building dates back to 1872, but was destroyed by fire in a 1973 prison riot.
This guard tower overlooks a beautiful rose garden which was the site of six executions by hanging.  Inmates could watch the gallows being built from Death Row.
This is one of the older cell blocks, and it is an incredibly eerie place.  There was one small radiator to heat a huge, four story room.  It must have been extremely cold and dark in those tiny cells, and until 1928 none of the cell blocks had indoor plumbing.  Before then, a "honey bucket" in the corner of each cell was the toilet.

Several of the buildings gave chilling hints about what it must have been like to stay here.  Just imagine what it would have been like to use this community shower with other inmates who probably were not very nice people.  There were also exhibits of prison tattoos, weapons, and more.

The laundry room was one of my favorites.  There were a lot of mysterious machines in a poorly lit, dusty room.  This crank was a good subject for black and white photography.  Because of the lack of light, a tripod was a necessity inside.

If you decide to go, look for details.  They are everywhere.  This sign nearly blended with the background until I played with contrast and converted it to black and white.

The Idaho Botanical Gardens are right next door, so if you visit the penitentiary with someone who does not enjoy this eerie place, send them into the sunlight and flowers.

But, I think it is a fascinating photo op.


  1. Wonderful entry about the penitentiary. Love your photography and narrative.

  2. I appreciate your comment, Lisa. We had a wonderful time meeting you and Frank, and seeing how you create your beautiful images.