1. Early History

Early History of Idaho Botanical Garden Location

The Old Idaho Penitentiary was a functioning prison for 101 years. It was built in 1870 and the first prisoners arrived in 1872. The site was selected because of its proximity to the growing agricultural center in Boise and to sandstone, the material used in the construction of the penitentiary’s walls, Administration Building, and cell houses. The buildings were constructed by inmate laborers. 

In 1872, the Idaho Territorial Penitentiary officially opened.  The Old Idaho Penitentiary grew from a single cell house into a complex of several buildings holding Idaho's most notorious criminals. The "Old Pen" received over 13,000 inmates with a maximum population of over 600. The federal government operated the site until statehood in 1890. The “Old Pen," as it is affectionately referred to by locals, officially closed in December 1973.

The Idaho Botanical Garden is located on the part of the prison called #2 Yard. This is where minimum security inmates worked and attended school. The large turf area is called Outlaw Field.  In the 1940’s Outlaw Field moved from inside the prison yard to #2 Yard. Its use alternated between baseball and football. The prison team called the Outlaws played teams from throughout the area. A former opposing player recalled the Outlaws as “The best team I ever played against…”