by Hanna Battah
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced on Nov. 6 that the state and Jefferson City will split the tab to reopen the abandoned Missouri State Penitentiary for tourists.
Nixon said the $2 million project will reopen the site by spring 2014. Public tours of the site began in 2009, and closed late September after environmental testing deemed several tour areas hazardous to the public because of mold.
“This agreement will ensure that its rich history can continue to be shared and experienced by all, while protecting the health and safety of staff and visitors at the site,” Nixon said.
The state and Jefferson City will each pay $1 million to finance the renovation. Some of those funds will be spent looking into hazardous material cleanup in some of the building’s housing units and the gas chamber.
Jefferson City Visitors Bureau Executive Director Diane Gillespie said the renovations will help return money to the state Capital.
“The Jefferson City Convention and visitors Bureau is deeply committed to this project and the potential it has to drive tourism in our city and the state of Missouri,” Gillespie said.
The facility is the oldest penitentiary west of the Mississippi River. It ceased housing inmates in 2004.