MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One of the most recognizable buildings in Minnesota — the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud — is turning 125.

“It’s been kind of shrouded in mystery. It’s been here 125 years,” said Warden Collin Gau.

Since 1889, 55 acres of property in central Minnesota has been home to the St. Cloud prison. Once you get inside the granite wall, you can see why this site was chosen.

“It was constructed out of the granite that was mined inside. There’s two quarries inside the walls. It was built with inmate labor at a time when there were not hydraulic lifts or hoists. It was all block and tackle,” Gau said.

Gau has spent all 42 years of his career in corrections at St. Cloud.

“We are going to go into Unit B. This is the original cell house from 1889,” Gau said.

He provided this rare tour of the inside of the facility for one reason.

“We, as a department, are trying to be more transparent. I want to tell you about the good thing that the Department of Corrections is doing,” Gau said.

Gau says 450 employees are responsible for rehabilitating more than one thousand inmates. He’s proud of the facility’s track record.

“Seventy-five percent of our offenders out three years without a new felony conviction. That’s a pretty good rate of success,” Gau said.

St. Cloud is the processing center for all men who enter the corrections system. Not much has changed since the original inmates occupied the building.

“The same keys that they used then, they use now,” Gau said.

Approximately 350 to 400 inmates a month are processed through the prison in St. Cloud. The 6 feet by 10 feet cells housed some of the state’s toughest criminals.

It’s a building that has stood the test of time and is expected to offer public safety for another century.

Reg Chapman