The Old Montana Prison
While writing Black River, I made several visits to the Old Montana Prison in Deer Lodge, Montana. Now a museum, the Old Montana Prison was built with inmate labor and housed inmates from 1871 to 1979, when operations were moved to a newer prison facility nearby. While the prison in Black River is fictional, elements of it were certainly inspired by the real Old Montana Prison.
Most of the Old Montana Prison has remained largely unchanged since it was used to house inmates. There are a few exhibits inside what used to be the administrative buildings, including an exhibit about the real riot that took place at the prison in 1959.
At one point during the 1959 riot, the Montana National Guard fired a bazooka at the main cell block; the damage is still visible today. The interior of the cell block is quite eerie now that it's empty--you can hear doves cooing and fluttering near the ceiling, and the high exterior windows are dingy and let in little light--but it's not hard to imagine how miserable it must have been inside when crowded with inmates.
If you happen to find yourself passing through Deer Lodge, the Old Montana Prison is a worthwhile stop. Even if you can't make it in person, you can learn more at the Old Montana Prison Facebook page or website.
Unless otherwise noted, all photographs on this page were taken by S. M. Hulse.