Hoa Lo Prison Museum: A Maison Centrale in Hanoi, Vietnam
Hoa Lo Prison Museum or Hoa Lo Prison Memorial (Vietnamese: Nhà Tù Hỏa Lò) was a Prison built by French from 1896 to detain Vietnamese Prisoners, who fought agains the French Colonialists for Independence of the Country.
The name "Hoa Lo" means "Hoa - Fire" & "Lo - Stove" came from the original street name “Pho Hoa Lo - Hoa Lo Street”, as this area were a Ceramic Village and selling wood stoves and coal-fire stoves along the street from pre-colonial times.
The Hoa Lo Prison was built by the French from 1886 to 1901, when the country was still part of French Indochina. The French named the prison Maison. It was intended to detain Vietnamese prisoners, who fought agains French for independence of the country.
Hoa Lo Prison is known widely by the nickname ‘Hanoi Hilton’ given to it by the American Prisoners of War during the Vietnam War. From 1964 to 1973 the prisoners detained here included several captured American pilots - who were shot down in Hanoi, notably US Senator John McCain and Mr Douglas ‘Pete’ Peterson, who was later the first America’s first Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Most of the construction was demolished in 1996 to make way for the Hanoi Towers (now Somerset Grand Hanoi Hotel) serviced apartment and office complex. But the southernmost corner of building has been preserved and reopened to the public as a memorial to the revolutionaries who had died here in atrocious conditions. Visitors can see the original cells, complete with leg-irons, along with a selection of bilingual (Vietnamese and English) displays illustrating the horrors of life in the prison during the French colonial time.
The Hoa Lo Prison Museum was depicted in the eponymous 1987 Hollywood movie The Hanoi Hilton. By 1996, most of the walls of Hoa Lo Prison Museum had been torn down to make way for new construction. Portions of the walls of the prison were retained for historical reasons. The Vietnamese communist also have bitter memories of the prison, for many communist people were kept and tortured there. In 1998, the old front of Hoa Lo Prison was repainted and restored and the remaining portions of the prison were turned into a tourist sightseeing spot.
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