Structural threats next on prison tour

Although this deteriorating cell made for an interesting changing room for actors during filming of a movie inside prison walls, pealing paint and mold creates a challenge to preserving the old Missouri State Penitentiary. (File photo)

Although this deteriorating cell made for an interesting changing room for actors during filming of a movie inside prison walls, pealing paint and mold creates a challenge to preserving the old Missouri State Penitentiary. (File photo) Photo by Julie Smith.

No matter who owns the land at the Missouri State Penitentiary, the Jefferson City Historic Preservation Commission is more concerned about the condition of the three most historic buildings.

The commission will request a tour of the area and buildings designated to remain for historic purposes in the site’s Master Plan.

“We should stay aware of what’s going on,” said Commissioner Mark Schreiber. “It is a local, state and national historic, architectural and archaeological treasure.”

Commissioners aren’t looking for the casual historic tour offered by the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau.

They agreed they want to see the long-standing pools of water, the crumbling ceilings, the caved-in roofs and other structural threats.

“A status tour is a fantastic idea,” said Commissioner Art Hernandez.

In 1993, the commission named its first city Landmarks and Housing Unit 4 or A Hall was among them. Housing Unit 4, designed by Warden Horace Swift, is the oldest remaining unit with 149 cells occupied from 1868-2004, when the inmates relocated to the new Jefferson City Correctional Center.

The entire site was named a Landmark in 1998.

Housing Unit 3, once called McClung Hall, also is in danger. It is where the 1954 riot ended and it housed death row.

Schreiber said the black membrane which once was the roof is gone, plaster is falling in and hundreds of gallons of water have poured through the roof into the building.

Housing Unit 1, which faces the federal courthouse and is the entrance for the bureau tours, similarly has trouble with pools of water and falling plaster and ceilings, he said.

“My concern is we may not have anything for people to see,” Schreiber said. “I don’t care who owns the property; I want to see a consensus reached so that at some point we can make sure the bulldozer doesn’t reach these buildings.”

In other business, the commission at its regular meeting Tuesday:

• Encouraged attendance at the Heritage Month Awards, which will include the naming of the 2013 Landmark Award winners and the Greg Stockard Distinguished Service honoree, at 4 p.m. May 23 in the city council chambers.

• Learned the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places for the Moreau Drive Historic District should be available for the commission’s review by the July meeting.

• Reviewed applications for 212 Hughes St. and 408 Lafayette St., required by the Section 106 process for the use of federal funds. The first was approved and the second tabled to allow for research.

• Held the demolition application for 310 West Elm St., where a log cabin likely built before the Civil War still stands in good shape.

• Considered the demolition application for 406 and 408 Washington St., owned by the Housing Authority. This application also was held for further review, including whether the brick residentials are included in the Missouri State Capitol Historic District boundary increase from 2002.

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