Housing Unit 4—also known as A-Hall—still stands after 154 years since its construction. Photo—Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A-Hall is again part of tour after repairs from 2019 tornado

This article is presented in partnership with the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau

Overlooking the Missouri River in Jefferson City sits a looming landmark: the Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP). Decommissioned in 2004, the penitentiary operated for 168 years, cementing Jefferson City as the state capital in addition to creating its own dark yet intriguing history. 

Inmates in striped uniforms walk in lines across the MSP grounds. A-Hall is on the right. Circa 1908. Photo—Missouri State Archives, Mark Schreiber Collection.

Returning visitors to MSP may recognize a familiar stop as it makes its comeback to the tour rotation. Housing Unit 4, also known as A-Hall, was removed from the tours after sustaining significant tornado damage in 2019. After a two-year hiatus and ongoing preservation efforts, visitors will once again be able to access the main floor and dungeon cells in the oldest existing housing unit on MSP property.

A man in a hat and suit leans over the rail of the second-floor interior walkway to A-Hall. Circa 1905. Photo—Missouri State Archives, Mark Schreiber Collection.

Built in 1868 for post-Civil War criminals, the walls of Housing Unit 4 hold an incredible number of stories. Many infamous inmates walked to halls of HU4, the most widely known being boxer Charles “Sonny” Liston. Liston arrived at MSP in 1950, he learned to box at MSP and was soon part of a deal made between a newspaper publisher and the Board of Probation and Parole. If Sonny could be released on parole, the publisher would see to it that he received a job and training as a boxer. Liston was released on parole in 1952, beginning his meteoric rise to success. 

Inmate Sonny Liston poses in the MSP boxing ring in the exercise yard. After his release in 1952, he became a professional eventually earning the title Heavyweight Champion of the World. Photo—Missouri State Archives, Mark Schreiber Collection.

Thousands travel to Jefferson City each year to experience the history held inside the walls of what was once deemed the “bloodiest 47 acres in America” by TIME magazine. Guests can choose to take a history, ghost, or photography tour, and will walk through three incredibly historic housing units, the vast upper yard of the property and the gas chamber.

To learn more about tours and make reservations, guests can visit MissouriPenTours.com