Moundsville, WV


The town of Moundsville has two attractions: the Native American burial mounds for which it is named, and the giant old West Virginia Penitentiary which kept the town thriving for about 130 years.

The WVP is the second oldest public building in the state of West Virginia.  Inmates began building it in the 1860’s.  By the 1960’s, the population inside the thick stone walls boomed to about 2,000 inmates. After reaching the century mark, overcrowding and age both took their toll, and conditions inside the prison were finally deemed “cruel and unusual” by the state supreme court in 1986.  Still, it took nine more years to build other facilities, and move all the inmates out.

Nowadays, you don’t have to commit a felony to hear the steel bars slam shut.  The prison conducts daily tours, allowing you to sit inside a 5×7 foot cell and see “Old Sparky”, the electric chair.

Tours of the WVP cost $8 per adult.  You can find more information on prices and tour schedules by visiting the WVP website.

Watch for “Prison Tours” signs as you drive through Moundsville on WV Rte. 2.  The prison is just a few blocks away from the downtown district.  If all else fails, ask anyone.

Note: This trip was first published in 2005.

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