Old Idaho State Penitentiary

The Old Idaho Penitentiary Historic Site

The Old Idaho Penitentiary was a functional prison from 1872 to 1973 in the Western United States, east of Boise, Idaho. The first building, also known as the Territorial Prison, was constructed in the Territory of Idaho in 1870. The territory was just seven years old when the prison was built, a full 20 years before becoming the State of Idaho.

From its early beginnings as a single cell house, the penitentiary grew to a complex of several distinctive buildings surrounded by a 17' high sandstone wall. The stone was quarried from the nearby ridges by the resident convicts, who also assisted in later constructions.

Over its 101 years of operation, the penitentiary received more than 13,000 inmates, with a maximum population of a little over six-hundred. 215 of the inmates were women. Two famous inmates were Harry Orchard and Lyda Southard. Orchard assassinated former Governor Frank Steunenberg in 1905. Southard was known as Idaho's Lady Bluebeard for killing several of her husband’s to collect upon their life insurance policies.

The Old Idaho Penitentiary is now operated by the Idaho State Historical Society.