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Wyoming Frontier Prison

500 W Walnut St, Rawlins, WY 82301-4768
+1 307-324-4422
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We travelled to Rawlins especially to visit this prison - weel worth it! Like all prisons, this... read more

Reviewed 1 week ago
909frankl909
,
Fort Collins, Colorado
Loved this visit

Stopped in to break up our road trip across Wyoming with young kids. This place is incredible... read more

Reviewed 3 weeks ago
LbsPer2El
,
Denver, Colorado
via mobile
Read all 223 reviews
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The eighty year history of Wyoming’s first state penitentiary, now known as the Wyoming Frontier Prison, is as colorful and elaborate as the plot of a classic western movie. The cornerstone of the prison was laid in 1888, but due to funding issues and Wyoming’s notorious weather, the doors wouldn’t open for thirteen years. In December of 1901, the prison opened and consisted of 104 cells (Cell Block A), no electricity or running water, and very inadequate heating. Throughout the prison’s operation, approximately 13,500 people were incarcerated, including eleven women. Overcrowding was an almost constant concern, and the first of several additions to the penitentiary was completed in 1904, adding 32 cells to the west end of the original cell block (Cell Block A). Women were housed in the prison until 1909, until the last woman was transferred to Colorado. The addition of the second cell block (Cell Block B) in 1950 temporarily relieved the overcrowding, and also included solitary confinement cells, a much more efficient heating system, and hot running water which wouldn’t be installed in the original cell block for another twenty-eight years. A maximum security addition (Cell Block C) was completed in 1966, but the addition only included thirty-six cells and was reserved for serious discipline cases. The prison was equipped with several different means of disciplining inmates throughout its operation, including a dungeon, several variations of solitary confinement and a “punishment pole” to which men were handcuffed and whipped with rubber hoses. The prison also used different execution methods.. The first two executions were carried out using the “traveling” Julien Gallows which were used to hang Tom Horn in Cheyenne in 1903. In 1916, the penitentiary completed the addition of a “death house” which consisted of six cells to house inmates on death row, and a unique indoor version of the Julien Gallows. The building also housed the gas chamber when it was chosen to replace hanging as Wyoming’s execution method of choice in 1936. Ultimately 14 death sentences were carried out; nine men were hanged, and five were executed in the gas chamber by the use of hydrocyanic acid gas. The Wyoming Frontier Prison is a remnant of the grizzly past of the old west, but not every aspect of prison life was so off-putting. Over the 80-year operation, the prison produced goods to meet demands of four major industries. From 1901 through 1917 the prison had a broom factory, but inmates burned it down during a riot. The factory was rebuilt and operated as a shirt factory which brought in twice the revenue to the state. In 1934, a federal law was passed to prohibit the sale and transportation of prison manufactured goods from one state to another, which resulted in the loss of significant revenue when the factory closed. In 1935, the factory began operating as a woolen mill which won the “Navy E” in 1942 for the superior quality blankets produced by the prison for the military during World War II. In 1949 the prison changed production one last time, producing license plates until the penitentiary closed in 1981. After serving the state for eighty years, the prison closed its doors, and sat abandoned until 1987 when a low budget movie titled “Prison” was filmed on location. The movie was one of Viggo Mortensen’s first and featured several other well known actors. Significant damage was done to the prison grounds during filming because it had yet to be considered a historic site. In 1988, a joint powers board assumed ownership of the penitentiary, dubbed it The Wyoming Frontier Prison, and established it as a museum. The Wyoming Frontier Prison has since been listed on The National Registry of Historic Places, and offers tours to approximately 15,000 visitors annually.
  • Excellent64%
  • Very good30%
  • Average5%
  • Poor1%
  • Terrible0%
Travelers talk about
“gas chamber” (67 reviews)
“tour guide” (39 reviews)
“great tour” (16 reviews)
Closed Now
Hours
Hours Today: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Suggested Duration: 1-2 hours
LOCATION
500 W Walnut St, Rawlins, WY 82301-4768
CONTACT
Website
+1 307-324-4422
Write a ReviewReviews (223)
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"gas chamber"
in 67 reviews
"tour guide"
in 39 reviews
"great tour"
in 16 reviews
"cell blocks"
in 13 reviews
"tour takes"
in 4 reviews
"interesting place"
in 9 reviews
"different stories"
in 3 reviews
"eye opening"
in 4 reviews
"takes about an hour"
in 3 reviews
"road trip"
in 5 reviews
"piece of history"
in 3 reviews
"exercise yard"
in 7 reviews
"gift shop"
in 7 reviews
"small museum"
in 3 reviews
"worth a stop"
in 3 reviews
"gallows"
in 25 reviews
"frontier"
in 17 reviews
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1 - 10 of 219 reviews

Reviewed 1 week ago

We travelled to Rawlins especially to visit this prison - weel worth it! Like all prisons, this has it's sad and moving stories to tell and NO ONE tells those stories better than our tour guide, Dallas did.

Thank 909frankl909
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 3 weeks ago via mobile

Stopped in to break up our road trip across Wyoming with young kids. This place is incredible, really can’t fathom what one of the toughest federal prisons was like back in the early 1900’s before today. The death house and the cafeteria were my favorites....More

2  Thank LbsPer2El
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 29, 2018

this was an interesting stop. I took the guided tour just prior to lunch and that was the only complaint I had. Because the museum and tours close from noon to 1 our guide was in a hurry and not all that interested in questions....More

2  Thank Couple_OR_Travelers
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed April 12, 2018 via mobile

This tour was fascinating. This was my second visit, the first being back in 1989, and it was well worth revisiting. It was my husband's first visit and, as a history buff, he also highly recommends it.

2  Thank Linda F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 6, 2018 via mobile

Visited this place twice. The tour guides were excellent. It is a unique piece of history and what I liked most was that it didn't feel like a museum. It still had a lot of grit and it's a truly unique experience to see what...More

Thank outerspace_queen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 30, 2017

the self-guided tour doesn't take too long, usually less than an hour, but its a real up close look at a prison that was in use not very long ago and yet housed some really famous outlaws from the wild west days.. and a good...More

1  Thank whatatripwehad
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 13, 2017

Tour guide very knowledgeable about the history and inmate stories. Nice gift shop and museum articles on display; especially the equipment used and items found in inmate cells.

Thank RipleyLake
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 27, 2017

We enjoyed our tour of the prison. The tour guide was good and told some interesting stories. She gave history of the place along with the stories. The tour lasts about an hour. It was interesting seeing a small replica of the hanging device work....More

Thank Cherie P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 23, 2017 via mobile

Our tour guide was very good and gave us lots of information about the history of the penitentiary and its colorful inmates. The tour lasts about 1 hour. Before starting, you are shown a small replica of the hanging mechanism. It shocks you when it...More

Thank MrsPickle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 22, 2017 via mobile

Took the tour here, it was well worthwhile. Got to see the different cells, kitchen, gas chamber, they told stories about different inmates.

Thank DellaE
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Ask a question
Questions & Answers
lorinjer
June 17, 2018|
Answer
Response from Linda F | Reviewed this property |
I think that you just show up at tour time. If you have a large group, you might want to call ahead but we (and about 20 other assorted people) just showed up at tour time.
1
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yogi67410
September 9, 2016|
AnswerShow all 6 answers
Response from Kidzoomom | Reviewed this property |
Some places are but overall no.
1
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Tom W
July 29, 2016|
AnswerShow all 2 answers
Response from Laura B | Reviewed this property |
He was in Lincoln Nebraska.
0
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