Discovery of the Centennial Cells
In the mid 1980s, officials from the MSP, the Department of Corrections, and the Division of Adult Institutions unearthed an old cell block that predated the Civil War. The discovery happened after a court order was issued to put in a recreation yard for offenders that were on death row. When the construction between Housing Units 2 and 3 began, and the crews started digging, they realized they hit something solid. This finding led to an exploration of six cells built around the 1840s, which were part of the long-buried Centennial Hall. Based on research, this is now believed to be the oldest existing building on the MSP property.
Expanding MSP History
While a plan to preserve the buried cells for the future had long been a thought on paper, the Centennial Cells preservation project didn’t begin to take shape until 2019. The first phase of adding the cell block to the MSP tours included surveying the area. After the survey was complete, the crew moved into phase two and began digging at the site. Phase three included excavating cells, installing sidewalks, and stair-access to the cell.
In August 2020, the finishing touches were added and the project was completed. MSP visitors can now explore the cells on the 3-hour history tour, ghost hunts, and overnight investigations.