The prison was constructed in 1872, running as a Territorial Prison until 1890 when Wyoming became a state. In 1890, the facility was reorganized as the Wyoming State Penitentiary. For 30 years, the building held notorious outlaws like Butch Cassidy, Dan Parker, Clark “the Kid” Pelton, and Ellijah Canary. Over 1,000 men and 12 women of various nationalities, religious backgrounds and occupations passed through the iron grate doors.
Inmates were transferred to a new facility in Rawlins, Wyoming in the summer of 1903 and the old prison became an experiment station for the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture.
The University of Wyoming ran the facility as an experimental farm until 1989 when a group of Laramie citizens rallied to have the building restored. After $5 million and a transfer of the property, the prison opened as a historic site in 1991.
In 2004, the management of the property was restructured under Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources.