Historic Prison Tour
The Jackson Historic Prison Tour has made the front page of USA Today, The Detroit Free Press, and The Lansing State Journal. It has been the subject of several radio and television programs including NPR and Under the Radar Michigan. There’s no need to question why to take a prison tour. Try it! You’ll be swept away -- or behind bars -- in Jackson, Michigan, a prison town since 1838, when it won a battle among several Michigan cities to have Michigan's First State Prison.
The Jackson Historic Prison Tour now begins at the Michigan Theatre, one of the three remaining theatres of the W.C. Butterfield Strand Theatres. Briefly tour the Theatre. Then sit back to watch a film and experience what life was like in Michigan’s First State Prison (1839-1934). See it on a high definition screen with surround-sound. Founder/Director of the tours and storyteller extraordinaire, Judy Gail Krasnow, narrates. Mixed with the live film as it pauses, you will hear tales told by live tour guides about colorful inmates, punishments, reforms, night keepers, wardens, prison labor and some clever plots and escapes. With film footage of every nook and cranny of the old building and intriguing archival photos, you see sites such as the old West Wing, solitary area, and a prison tunnel. The stories heard and scenes seen are memorable.
Are there ghosts in the old prison? You’ll find out!
When the movie ends, board the bus and go to the functioning Jackson State Correctional Facilities, 3 miles north on Cooper Street. Here, separated from present-day inmates only by chain link and razor wire, visit 7-Block, a closed but fully intact cellblock (1934-2007). Go into the cells. Hear the echo of slamming prison doors. See where Robert De Niro, Milla Jovovich and Edward Norton filmed the movie “Stone.” Spend time on the prison yard, and walk the galleries. Hear intriguing stories about the famous/infamous convicts who spent time in 7-Block at “Jacktown,” as both the old and new prisons were called. And hear of a one-and-only helicopter escape!
At 7-Block you eat lunch at tables bolted into the floor where thousands of prisoners ate their prison grub. No bread and water or gristle for you, but instead – a custom-catered lunch (that is, of course, if you behave!!!)
After 7-Block, go to the grounds of Michigan’s First State Prison to ART 634, formerly the famous Jackson Wagon Company, where inmates once provided cheap convict labor. Here, visit The Old Prison Gift Shop and Gallery and other eclectic art boutiques. Enjoy a refreshing drink at CUPPA.
Now customize your tour with First Degree or Second Degree:
The First Degree gives you the full dose beginning with the interactive program of film, live storytelling, archival photos, and audience participation at the beautiful, historic Michigan Theatre. Here, you get the detailed, fascinating history of how Jackson came to have Michigan's First State Prison, which grew into the largest walled prison in the world. The program is filled with tales of colorful inmates, night keepers, and wardens, prison life and labor, life in solitary, crime, punishments, and reform. Then, you visit 7-Block at the State Prison of Southern Michigan. Here you eat lunch where thousands of inmates have downed their prison chow. You have an exciting tour of the 515-cell cellblock, the old prison yard, and hear tales of riots, Prohibition gangs, famous/infamous inmates, and unique escapes. Finally, you visit ART 634, once the Jackson Wagon Company where inmates built the world-famous wagons. Here, in The old Prison Gift Shop, find tour-related souvenirs, books, and art painted by prisoners, browse in other unique boutiques, and snack at the cozy coffee cafe, CUPPA. This tour lasts approximately 4-5 hours. For this tour, reservations ahead of time are necessary.
The Second Degree gives you a smaller, but equally fascinating dose with a brief background of Michigan's First State Prison. You do not eat lunch, but you do go to 7-Block and have the complete tour there, going into cells, walking the five tiers of galleries, seeing the old prison yard, and hearing tales of riots, Prohibition gangs, famous/infamous inmates, and unique escapes. Then, you visit ART 634, once the Jackson Wagon Company where inmates built the world-famous wagons. Here, in The old Prison Gift Shop, find tour-related souvenirs, books, and art painted by prisoners, browse in other unique boutiques, and snack at the cozy coffee cafe, CUPPA. This tour lasts approximately two hours. For this tour, you may call the day before, or the morning you wish to take the tour. The tour guides are usually available and on-call.
When you’re done shopping, take a 90-minute tour we call “From Prison to Paradise”. Visit St. Demetrius Orthodox Church with its exquisite iconography and delicious hot coffee and Baklava home-baked by the “Baklava Bakers.”
Or make your visit an overnight stay. Freshen up in your hotel and in the evening, indulge yourselves at the new winery, brewery and restaurant, Grand River Marketplace, opening right next to the Michigan Theatre. We call this tour “From Behind Bars to Sitting at the Bar”. Tour the Brewery. Taste the wines. Eat dinner.
Other Jackson gems include:
Jackson festivals include:
- Jackson Storyfest in May
- Hot Air Balloon Jubilee in July
- Michigan Shakespeare Festival in July and August
- Cascades Civil War Muster in August
Do Time in Jackson! An Experience You Are Sure to Remember!
- Tours run from May through October
- Call 517-817-8960 or email to arrange dates and times
- Reservations are necessary
- Groups of 12 or more may make arrangements to eat a catered lunch (no bread and water here) in the old prison café in 7-Block.
Location and directions
- Jackson, Michigan: 2 miles south of I-94 (Exit 139, Cooper Street)
- Call 517-817-8960 for directions to parking area and bus pick-up
Go to HistoricPrisonTours.com to learn more!
Jackson - Home to the Two Largest Walled Prisons in the World! Begin the tour in downtown Jackson at the Michigan Theatre with a brief tour of this historic site.... » More Information
Jackson - Home to the Two Largest Walled Prisons in the World!
Begin the tour in downtown Jackson at the Michigan Theatre with a brief tour of this historic site. Then, with surround sound and an HD screen, see and hear the fascinating history of Michigan’s First State Prison (1839-1934). Mixing film with live presentations by tour guides, you’ll experience intriguing tales of prison life, colorful inmates, wardens, night-keepers, punishments, and reforms. You will see solitary cells and underground tunnels as the old prison come to life.
Next: Board the bus to 7-Block (1934-2007), a fully intact, closed cellblock at the Jackson State Correctional Facilities. Here, Robert DeNiro filmed the movie “Stone.” Experience the “cage,” or holding area. Then walk down the ramp that took prisoners from the real world to the one behind bars. Eat a catered lunch at tables where thousands of inmates have downed their prison chow. Step inside a cell. Walk the five tiers of galleries. Go onto the prison yard. Hear of famous/infamous convicts, officers, riots, reforms, and a one-and-only helicopter escape.
After “doing time,” board the bus to ART 634 on the site of the First State Prison. Once the famous Jackson Wagon Company, where inmates provided cheap labor, today ART 634 hosts The Old Prison Gift Shop and Gallery. Browse and buy souvenirs here, featuring art from the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP). This original art work is created by artists in Michigan correctional facilities, juvenile facilities, urban high schools, and communities across the state. Also, visit other delightful shops and CUPPA, a cozy coffee café.
Do Time in Jackson! -- An Experience You'll Always Remember!
- Seen on Film at the Historic Michigan Theatre
- Experienced with Tour Guides on Live Prison Grounds
- Tales of Famous/Infamous Inmates
- Stories of Crime, Punishment & Reform
- A Catered Lunch Served in 7-Block
- Browse & Shop at the Old Prison Gift Shop & Gallery
Tour Begins at 124 N. Mechanic Street, Jackson, MI 49201
3.5 miles south of I-94 (Cooper Street Exit 139)
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The Michigan Theatre was the last and largest theater to be built in downtown Jackson, opening in 1930. Now a nonprofit organization, the Michigan Theatre of Jackson Inc., is working to... » More Information
The Michigan Theatre was the last and largest theater to be built in downtown Jackson, opening in 1930. Now a nonprofit organization, the Michigan Theatre of Jackson Inc., is working to restore the theater to its original luster. It was originally built in Spanish Renaissance style with an ornate polychrome terra cotta façade, carved walnut furniture, plush carpeting, heavy damask draperies, and stained-glass light fixtures. The Michigan Theatre is considered one of the most splendid theaters in the state. Their mission is to provide today's entertainment in an incredible historic venue. Events include kids movies and classic films, as well as live entertainment.
The Michigan Theatre is the first stop for on the Historic Prison Tours offered by Jackson Journey's.
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The spirit has no limitations, so there is no limit to the types of creativity birthed and practiced at Art 634. Music, dance, photography, painting, sculpture, jewelry, pottery and theater... » More Information
The spirit has no limitations, so there is no limit to the types of creativity birthed and practiced at Art 634. Music, dance, photography, painting, sculpture, jewelry, pottery and theater are all celebrated within the walls of ART 634.
Art 634 is proud to call an 1850's manufacturing facility home. It was originally built as a wagon and carriage factory, adjacent to Michigan's First State Prison. The location afforded an abundance of workers and reasonable labor rates for the factory. Over the years it has been used for warehousing, trucking operations. and numerous illicit and illegal activities. Today it has been reborn as an industry of creativity.
The Art 634 logo incorporates the building's long history. The circle of leaves represents the wagon wheel, fashioned out of leaves from the historical ginkgo tree directly to our east on Mechanic. With the name - Art 634, Center for the Creative Spirit. The creative spirit has no limitations.
2nd Sunday of every month from 12 pm to 4 pm is a special event featuring art, music, wine, food and camaraderie. Shop for all your gift needs for the coming month! Also don't miss the annual Fairy Festival in April which fills the building with magic and fun for the whole family.
Art 634 has two unique rooms available for rent:
- ART 634 Classroom: Do you like to teach but lack the space and artistic atmosphere? Rent the ART 634 Classroom for $15 an hour and we’ll even help promote it. Text 517-745-3980.
- ART 634 Back Gallery Space: Offering a unique atmosphere for exhibits. Text 517-745-3980.
ART 634 Tenants
- Arts & Cultural Alliance of Jackson County
- BoKay Studios
- Circle of Stones
- Copper Orchid Design
- Essa Arts
- Hair 634
- Hazelle M. Designs
- Jackson Ensemble Theatre
- Jackson School of the Arts
- Practical Guitar, Mike Crupi
- Studio Deeply Art
- The Old Prison Gift Shop
- The Weathered Garden
- Wendy Lebel Photography
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