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Colorado State Penitentiary

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1869. West end of Main St. at 1st St.

An octagonal stone guard tower overlooks the curve in U.S. 50, and other stone guard huts and observation posts command the hill above this prison. The state penitentiary was sited, not accidentally, against a hogback of lime and sandstone. This location made it possible to put prisoners to work on the traditional rock pile, quarrying the beige sandstone not only for their own confinement but also for buildings throughout the town. The lime was sold for smelter flux and used to build paved roads with convict labor statewide. Before the practice was abandoned, prisoners built many roads, including Cañon City's spectacular Skyline and Royal Gorge scenic drives.

The Women's Prison, a two-story stuccoed stone compound, was rehabilitated as the Colorado Territorial Prison Museum in 1988. Its thirty-two cells are now crowded with exhibits of prison industries, such as quarrying and making license plates, and with examples of “behavioral control devices.”

Writing Credits

Thomas J. Noel

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