The Old Montana Prison Complex (1106 Main St., 406/846-3111, www.pcmaf.org , 8 a.m.–8 p.m. daily Memorial Day–Labor Day, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. winter, $8 adults, $7 seniors, $4 children covers admission to all local museums) is the core of a series of contiguous historical exhibits.
Montana Territory first established a penitentiary in Deer Lodge  in 1871, but the disturbingly attractive buildings now open to the public were begun in the 1890s. The castellated three-story cell block of red brick was built in 1912. It contains 200 cells, each six by seven feet. W. A. Clark financed the construction of the prison theater in 1919. The oldest structure is the quarried sandstone guard wall, 24 feet high and anchored four feet below ground, built in 1893.
All of these structures (and others) were built by forced convict labor, a practice that was later outlawed. After a violent prison riot and investigation into the deteriorating conditions at the old prison, a new facility was built in 1979. Most of the facility is open for self-guided tours.Check out the gun ports in the shower room, the “galloping gallows” for off-premises executions, and maximum-security’s Black Box.
The Montana Law Enforcement Museum is located in the prison. Here is a memorial to officers slain in the line of duty, as well as curiosities such as Lee Harvey Oswald’s handcuffs.
Resist the reaction to find all of this really creepy, and do visit the old prison. The perfectly preserved quarters and facilities tell a grim story of prison life in the recent past, but almost eerily, the handsome architecture and pleasing symmetry of the row upon row of empty cells give the prison a forlorn but intense beauty.
Also in the prison complex is the Montana Auto Museum, the world’s second-largest antique Ford automobile collection. Edward Towe began his hobby in 1953 with the acquisition of a 1923 Ford Model-T Runabout; the collection now comprises more than 100 automobiles.
Some of the standout cars are the 1931 A-400 convertible sedan, a 1955 Thunderbird, and Henry Ford’s personal “camper,” a modified 1922 Lincoln that served as a picnic basket on wheels when Henry Ford went for weekend getaways.