Museum wants to organize tours of Joliet Prison

The City of Joliet, Illinois, hopes to strike an agreement with the Illinois Department of Corrections so the long-closed Joliet Prison can be reopened for tours, reported the Northwest Herald.

The Joliet Area Historical Museum is clamoring for access of the old prison because tourists — many of them traveling on Route 66 — want to see the place where Jake and Elwood Blues reunite in the opening minutes of “The Blues Brothers” movie from 1980.

The prison has become the scene of many other movies and television shows, but the “Blues Brothers” fame is the most enduring.

The newspaper reported:

The bus and walking tour would begin at the prison’s west wall sally port, according to City Manager Jim Hock. It would be led by former guards of the prison.

Points of interest would include an original single cell dated 1853, the solitary confinement building, guard posts looking upon interior prison cells and an external wall corner guard turret. There would be no access to the interior of any buildings.

Tours would originate at the museum, according to the proposal. Visitors would be bused to the site. Tours would be conducted five afternoons per week between Memorial Day and Labor Day. […] “Joliet Prison is the No. 1 one thing we get asked about,” said Greg Peerbolte, the museum’s executive director.

The fee for tours would be $40 a head, which would go toward mowing, tour guide expenses, transportation, insurance, marketing and preservation foundation.

The fee sounds steep, but it’s about the same price as a tour of another notorious prison — Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz receives 2 million visitors a year.

The city hopes it can eventually stabilize and preserve the prison. One big concern is a leaky roof, which needs about $1.3 million in repairs. If the prison becomes a tourism attraction, it could become eligible for grants.

The prison has remained vacant since 2002 but still is owned by the Department of Corrections.

(Image of the east gate of Joliet Prison via Wikimedia Commons)

3 thoughts on “Museum wants to organize tours of Joliet Prison

  1. We stayed in Joliet for two days last June while we were ‘doing’ the Route 66 Radio Tour. I found it the most wonderful place with lots of kind helpful people and many interesting things to see. The Joliet museum was fantastic, and i loved the park with rocks placed where the original town buildings once stood. I told Mike Brick at the museum that they should promote Joliet as ‘America’s Best Kept Secret’. I will be back one day, I HOPE, and maybe I shall be able to visit the old prison. Mind you, I’d probably find it a little upsetting thinking about all those wasted lives of the people who were incarcerated there. I suppose I’m a bit of an old softy really!!!!

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