So technically you aren’t supposed to take pictures of this place. I suppose for safety and legal purposes, but then maybe they should post a sign that informs visitors of this, and maybe they shouldn’t have made the building so awesome either. Within about a minute of stepping out of the vehicle in the visitors parking lot to try out some photos on a new camera, a black SUV with two uniformed officers pulled up and informed me of my error.
However, they were friendly and understanding, and basically just giving me a heads-up that they require folks to get permission from the Warden’s office in the future. No problem they said, they didn’t ask me to delete anything I had already grabbed, and we were on our way. The likelihood is that they probably get this all the time. The building is remarkable, a castle-like brick fortress made with locally quarried St. Cloud granite designed with Romanesque architecture; what tourist or passerby wouldn’t think this is photo-worthy? You almost expect a drawbridge to lower as you walk up.
The prison was Minnesota’s third, built in 1890, with additions made in later years constructed by inmates, which certainly seems like a productive use of their time. The back of the prison yard wall is visible alongside US Highway 10 just outside of St. Cloud, and a turnoff right there takes you right to the parking lot of the facility. The grounds of the facility feature many other brick structures and walls made from this local rock, and the beautiful imagery sets a tone denoting the stark contrast to the use of the facility. I actually went in once a couple years ago for a work-related assignment but you can’t get too far: it is a state prison after all. It’s an interesting contrast; the bold, medieval-looking, battlement walls instead keep the enemy in, as opposed to the other way around.
While in the area: Quarry Park in nearby Waite Park is a scenic little county park which offers hiking and swimming, and the surrounding towns of Stearns County are home to 52 historic and beautiful Catholic churches, if that’s your thing.