National Register of Historic Places

Wyoming State Penitentiary


Date Added to Register

Thursday, May 26, 1983

Smithsonian Number


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The Wyoming State Penitentiary is one of Wyoming's most significant historic sites. The penitentiary complex is historically and architecturally important on both a local and regional level. The placement of the State Penitentiary in Rawlins reflected the political and economic realities of nineteenth century Wyoming, and its construction and use provided a stabilizing influence for the railroad town. As one of the oldest state-supported institutions, it serves as a physical reminder of the tenets of the Wyoming Constitution and associated legislation. The Romanesque buildings at the state prison architecturally describe the prevalent stylistic concerns in Wyoming in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. Within the boundaries of the State Penitentiary's Historic District are buildings that range in construction date from 1891. The historic buildings can generally be divided into three stylistic categories: Romanesque, Mission, and utilitarian. The Romanesque structures, such as the administration building, cell block A, laundry, guard quarters-powerhouse complex, and commissary, are distinctive public buildings constructed of stone. The prison's association with a prominent architect, Walter E. Ware, also contributes to the penitentiary's architectural importance.

Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources