A structural inspection of the Missouri State Penitentiary documents a May 22 tornado and poor maintenance over the last several years has exacted a heavy toll on the historic landmark. State officials are still assessing how to move forward with repairing the old prison site and do not know when and how the damaged buildings will be repaired.
Once known as the "Bloodiest 47 acres in America," the Missouri State Penitentiary has more than 180 years of history, housing stories about prison riots and famous prisoners such as James Earl Ray, who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr.; Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd, a notorious bank robber; and Charles "Sonny" Liston, a well-known boxer.
On May 22, a new layer was added to Missouri State Penitentiary history: An EF-3 tornado with winds of up to 160 mph swept through the heart of the old prison site, damaging several of the historic buildings that once held prisoners.
The state hired consultants to evaluate the structural integrity of Housing Units 1-4 at the Missouri State Penitentiary after the tornado in hopes it would help the state assess the damage and decide how to proceed with repairing and/or replacing the buildings.
Allstate Consultants from Columbia conducted evaluations of Housing Units 1-4 on June 7, June 18 and July 8.
The Missouri Office of Administration provided a copy of Allstate Consultants' Aug. 7 Missouri State Penitentiary structural inspection report to the News Tribune last week.
Housing Unit 4
The tornado removed or severely damaged all of the roofing and a large chunk of the roof structure on Housing Unit 4, known as "A Hall," according to the report. The masonry along the top of the walls was also damaged due to "movement of the roof structure," it notes.
Constructed in 1868, Housing Unit 4 is considered dangerous because of falling hazards, the report states, and access inside and around the exterior east end of the building should be restricted.
The Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau announced last week it would start offering prison and ghost tours at the Missouri State Penitentiary starting Oct. 1, more than four months after the May 22 tornado struck the old prison.
The CVB will not allow visitors inside Housing Unit 4, which was a popular part of the prison tours, said Brittney Mormann, CVB communications and film manager. Instead, that section of the tour will take place in front of the building.
It may cost more than $2 million to repair Housing Unit 4, according to July cost estimates OA provided.
OA officials met with a contractor to assess Housing Unit 4's roof, OA Director of Communications Brittany Ruess said. State officials also restored power to the old prison site, she added.
"Just because OA met with a contractor does not mean we have a project plan for the MSP," Ruess said. "We are still assessing our options. Like the structural inspection report, the meeting with the contractor was a part of our information gathering."
Housing Unit 1
The tornado removed the steel roof purlins, which are framing devices that support the roof decking or sheeting, as well as timber sheathing and roofing from the south side of Housing Unit 1's roof, according to the report. Several bricks along the masonry wall were compromised due to the roof frame moving, and moisture had entered the building due to the missing roof, the report adds.
Built in 1905, Housing Unit 1 is the main entrance into the Missouri State Penitentiary off Lafayette Street. The CVB still plans to start its prison tours in the building since the damage was in a section of the building the tours are not in, Mormann said.
It may cost nearly $96,000 to repair Housing Unit 1, according to OA.
Housing Unit 3
Allstate Consultants did not observe structural damage to Housing Unit 3, a four-story masonry building built in 1914 is north of Housing Unit 2. The report notes there was some damage to the roofing and underlying insulation board.
It may cost more than $1.2 million to repair Housing Unit 3, according to OA.
Housing Unit 3 is part of the CVB's prison tours. The CVB still plans to conduct tours in the building since the damage was in a section of the structure that the tours are not in, Mormann said.
Housing Unit 2
Constructed on the south part of the old prison site in 1938, Housing Unit 2 did not have any observed damage to the primary steel-framed structure, according to the report. However, several parapet walls were either leaning or had collapsed, a newer crack ran along the bricks at the southwest corner of the building, and several concrete planks and roofing were damaged, the report noted.
A parapet wall is a barrier that extends beyond the wall at the edge of a roof, terrace, balcony, walkway or other structure.
Housing Unit 2 had "apparent past issues with moisture infiltration," and the roof damage was allowing moisture to drain into the building, according to the report.
"The structure overall was severely dilapidated from a lack of maintenance resulting in long-term moisture infiltration," according to the report.
The report added there were "numerous areas of damage or areas of concern from deferred maintenance" at each housing unit, not just Housing Unit 2.
"The buildings have had questionable maintenance in the past which can cause moisture-related damage to unreinforced masonry bearing walls and other structural systems," the report states. "Additional invasive evaluation of the masonry systems related to long-term maintenance related issues in all of the buildings and masonry structures at the site would be prudent for continued public access."
Allstate Consultants recommended the state restrict access around the exterior east half of Housing Unit 2 due to masonry and concrete roof planks potentially falling. The building was also considered dangerous because of the falling hazards, the report notes.
It may cost more than $3 million to repair Housing Unit 2, according to OA.
The CVB does not conduct prison tours in Housing Unit 2.
OA previously said Housing Unit 5 was also damaged during the tornado, along with the education building, gymnasium, north tunnel, recreation building, shoe factory and walls. However, those items were not included in the Aug. 7 report.
The state conveyed nearly 32 acres of the old prison to Jefferson City in the summer of 2017. The state and city finalized the conveyance more than a year ago.
Jefferson City owns the old shoe factory building as it is part of the nearly 32-acre redevelopment site. With an estimated cost of $433,400 to repair or replace, Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said the city is waiting to hear what redevelopers' ideas are for the building.
Last month, the Jefferson City Council approved a developer performance agreement for the MSP redevelopment site, asking four selected development teams to submit their MSP redevelopment project proposals.
OA is still assessing how to move forward with repairing the Missouri State Penitentiary and has not identified a funding source or hired a contractor yet, Ruess said. She added a timeline has not been set to repair and/or replace the damaged buildings.
The state included the Missouri State Penitentiary in the State Emergency Management Agency's public assistance declaration, Ruess said, and the state is waiting to know if federal funds could help repair the old prison site.
It may cost $9.4 million total to repair and/or replace the old prison, according to OA.
CVB has approximately $775,000 in their reserve "rainy day" fund they could contribute to the total costs, Mormann said.
The Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors in July approved using the CVB's reserved funds to repair Housing Unit 1's roof. CVB Executive Director Diane Gillespie said the roof repairs may cost $100,000-$115,000.
The net profits from the prison tours and merchandise sales go back toward preserving the old prison site, Gillespie said, adding the tour season last year generated about $125,000-$150,000.
"Depending on how our tours go this year determines what we can put back in (MSP)," she said.
As will any older buildings, Ruess said, there will be challenges to maintain and repair Missouri State Penitentiary.
"OA first prioritizes the safety and structural integrity of the buildings when making repairs," she said. "As is normal with old buildings, they are difficult to bring into compliance with modern standards and expensive to maintain compared to a modern facility. This is just one of the numerous reasons the old prison was vacated."
The storm may also trigger building code required repairs or updates beyond the tornado damage, the report notes.