Joliet may use $50,000 for old prison, reopen this month

The city of Joliet, Illinois, proposed an allocation of $50,000 to the Joliet Area Historical Museum to help cover expenses in reopening the historic Joliet prison.

If funding goes through as expected, Greg Peerbolte, the museum’s executive director, said it could start tours inside the old Joliet Correctional Center later this month.

The Herald-News reported:

The money would be used to staff and market tours, stage events, hire outside vendors and pay for a number of other expenses, including increased insurance liability, associated with the efforts to turn the vacated prison on Collins Street into a destination for tourists and other visitors. […]

The museum plans to charge $20 for tours, while offering a discounted rate of $18 to Joliet residents. Peerbolte said the museum wants to provide brochures and other materials to visitors to help make it an experience they would recommend to others in the future. […]

The $50,000 would be provided for the remainder of this year, while future funding would be considered as part of the city’s annual contribution to the museum. The city included $275,000 in museum funding in the 2018 budget, and the $50,000 would be an additional contribution.

“This is sort of seed money to get it going,” Joliet Economic Development Director Steve Jones said.

The agreement also requires four special events at the prison a year, plus educational programming.

The prison also will host The Great Prison Break-In, including a Blues Brothers tribute band, on Aug. 25. It too is a fundraiser to help shore up the more-than-century-old prison. A key scene in the 1980 film, “The Blues Brothers,” was filmed at the prison.

After years of talk about rehabbing the old prison, the city in December signed a five-year lease with the state. The prison closed in 2002.

Along with tours, the city seeks to open a hotel, restaurants and gift shops inside the prison’s limestone walls. The sprawling facility remains a popular photo op for Route 66 travelers.

The old Joliet Correctional Center shouldn’t be confused with Stateville Correctional Center, which sits in nearby Crest Hill, Illinois, along Illinois 53 (aka Route 66) and still is being used.

(Image of the Joliet Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, by JymPolranges via Flickr)

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