Interstate 80 travels a few miles south of Joliet. Traveling down the busy expressway with all of the trucks and their drivers that keep America running. I had to exit and check out the old prison where Elwood picked up his brother Jake in the Blues Brother’s movie.
The prison was first constructed in 1858 using blocks quarried from the site by inmates transferred from other prisons. In the early years, not only did it hold criminals but also Confederate Prisoners Of War during the Civil War. By 1872 the population had reached 1,239, a record number for a single prison. The prison closed in 2002 and is now part of the Joliet Area Historical Museum and visitors can tour the historic penitentiary.
When I visited I was confused because there was another prison down the street that is ran as a haunted attraction. I figured out that it was the women’s prison. Originally women were in a separate cell block in the main prison. In 1896, A separate prison modeled to resemble the original one but with less cells was constructed to hold female inmates.
It was a rainy day when I visited and the exterior walls of the old penitentiary look rather ominous and foreboding. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be an inmate. I did not have time to take a tour but hope to get back some other day and check out the historic prison.
P.S. I know there is a lot more I could write about the famous, or should I say infamous, prison but I am thinking I will save that for my Lost In Illinois book
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