Hoa Lo Prison is one of the special historical sites in the capital of Hanoi, built by French colonialists in 1896 in order to imprison the Vietnamese patriotic soldiers who fought against the French colonialists. French name of this prison at that time is Maison Centrale.
The name Hoa Lo, commonly translated as “fiery furnace” or even “Hell’s hole”, also means “stove”. The name originated from the street name ofHoa Lo Street, due to the concentration of stores selling wood stoves and coal-fire stoves along the street from pre-colonial times.
Hoa Lo Prison has an area of more than 12,000m2, and it is considered as the most solid building in Indochina. The prison is surrounded by stone walls, steels with 4 meters height and reinforced by barbed-wire system of high voltage lines running, through the four corner there have towers are capable of observing the prison. Iron doors and locks system was brought from France. The main gate was built attached to the two-story building, with arch structure. From one area to other, it must follow a path that has many iron doors so that the prisoners could hardly escape.
After 1954, Hoa Lo is the prison of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam regime. During the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in the air of Vietnam War, this prison is where detained American pilots parachuting until after the 1973 Paris Peace Agreement. The American pilot prisoner called Hoa Lo prison is “Hanoi Hilton”. Among the American POWs, the most famous one is the reigning U.S. Senator – John McCain.
Nowadays, Hoa Lo just remains a small corner as museum for tourists to visit, rest areas are commercial buildings with the name “Hanoi Towers”. The prison area was moved to Xuan Phuong, Cau Dien, Tu Liem, Hanoi. Hoa Lo still preserves the guillotine that the French colonialist used to cut heads of revolutionary patriotic soldiers who were imprisoned in Hoa Lo prison. This prison is also kept many documents and files of the communist soldiers. Hoa Lo Prison has intact with many precious materials, science display, and the attractive spot for many domestic and foreign guests toHanoi. Hoa Lo prison is a destination not to be missed when come to Vietnam.