August 6th, 2022

The West Virginia Penitentiary is the perfect balance of history and mystery.

More information can be found on their website
Now serving as a tourist destination, this former prison once was housed some of the most violent inmates in all of the country. This ominous Gothic structure, built in 1866, stopped being an active prison in 1995 and has since been a historic landmark and tourist attraction in Moundsville, West Virginia.
Often mistakenly called the Moundsville Penitentiary, this building is the home of the Moundsville Economic Development Council and is the one of the main tourist attractions in the Greater Moundsville Area. Located directly across the street from the Grave Creek Mound, many school and touring groups plan functions to learn a little history of West Virginia.
Touring is not the only popular reason people come to visit the West Virginia Penitentiary. Often called one of the most haunted places in America, those interested in the paranormal take advantage of the special events held at the Pen. Halloween becomes a very festive time inside those 5-foot thick walls, as guests test their mental limits against the Dungeon of Horrors.
The penitentiary has proved to be a great place to learn, explore, excite, and entertain. All age groups find some value and amusement in our various offerings. You will find that there is something for everyone locked behind these doors.

The prison at Joliet provided the prototype for the West Virginia Penitentiary. It was an imposing stone structure fashioned in the castellated Gothic architectural style (adorned with turrets and battlements, like a castle). Only the dimensions of West Virginia’s facility would differ; it would be approximately one-half the size of Joliet.

No architectural drawings of the West Virginia Penitentiary have been discovered, so an understanding of the plan developed by the Board of Directors must be obtained through their 1867 report, which details the procurement of a title for ten acres of land and a proposal to enclose about seven acres. On the north side would be a street 60 feet in width, and on the west 140 feet for street and yard to the front buildings.

The prison yard would be a parallelogram 682 1/2 feet in length, by 352 1/2 feet in width, enclosed by a stone wall 5 feet in thickness at the bottom, 2 1/2 feet at the top, with foundation 5 feet below the surface, and wall 25 inches thick. At each of the corners of this wall would be large turrets, for the use of the guards, with inside staircases. Guardrooms would be above on a level with the top of the main. The superintendent’s house and cell buildings would be so placed that the rear wall of each would form part of the west wall.