Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site
At I-80 Exit 311 in Laramie (307) 745-6161

The inspiration and cornerstone of the Wyoming Territorial Park is the beautifully restored Wyoming Territorial Prison Museum, built in 1872, now a showpiece of the National Historic Register. The arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad to Laramie City brought not only prosperity, but also problems in the form of unscrupulous ruffians to the area. The need for law and order, along with a place to house criminals, was quickly recognized. In December of 1869, a bill was passed by the territorial legislature approving the construction of the penitentiary. Federal funding was approved on July 15, 1870 for the construction of the Wyoming Territorial Prison.

During its use as a federal penal facility (1872 to 1903), more than 1,000 men and 12 women served sentences at the Wyoming Territorial Prison. Some of the West’s most notorious outlaws, including Butch Cassidy, spent part of their lives in this place that was “dedicated to evil doers of all classes and kinds.” Discover how the prison had a civilizing effect not only on the prisoners, but the “hell on wheels” railroad town of Laramie. Listen carefully and you can almost hear the clanking of the leg irons or the damnable bang of the cell doors closing.

When Wyoming became a state, a new penal institution was built in Rawlins and the prison was turned over to the University of Wyoming for use as an experimental stock farm. It was as a stock farm that the prison had its most use – 70+ years until it was restored as a museum. Today, the prison brings those famous legends to life through state-of-the-art displays and interactive exhibits on frontier law and justice, and other facets of Western history. Well-versed tour guides take you through the old building, giving you a glimpse into the colorful past of this unique institution and its residents.

Courtesy of Territorial Museum and the University of Wyoming

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