The prison was built in Hanoi by the French, in dates ranging from 1886–1889 to 1898 to 1901, when Vietnam was still part of French Indochina. The French occupied Hanoi in order to detain Vietnamese patriots who opposed their rule. Hoa Lo prison has the area of 12.908 m2, which is the most ancient architecture of 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. The main gate was built with the two stoney building with the dome-shaped structure. From the prison area to other, it should follow a path that has many iron doors so that the prisoners could hardly escape.
The French called the prison Maison Centrale - a traditional euphemism to denote prisons in France. It was located near Hanoi's French Quarter. It was intended to hold Vietnamese prisoners, particularly political prisoners agitating for independence who were often subject to torture and execution. A 1913 renovation expanded its capacity from 460 inmates to 600. It was nevertheless often overcrowded, holding some 730 prisoners on a given day in 1916, a figure which would rise to 895 in 1922 and 1,430 in 1933. By 1954 it held more than 2000 people; with its inmates held in subhuman conditions, it had become a symbol of colonialist exploitation and of the bitterness of the Vietnamese towards the French.
After the capital was liberated on 10th October 1954, Hoa Lo Prison was controlled by the revolutionary government. Period 1964-1973s, the America conducted destructive war the North of Vietnam. Hoa Lo Prison became the place to detain the American pilots.
Most of the original prison was demolished in 1996 to make way for the Hanoi Towers (now Somerset Grand Hanoi) serviced apartment and office complex, but the southernmost corner has been preserved and reopened to the public as a memorial to the revolutionaries who died here in atrocious conditions. Visitors can view 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 period.
Hoa Lo Prison has intact with many precious materials, science display, and the attractive spot for many domestic and foreign guests to Hanoi. Post Buttletin (the U.S) has an article on Vietnam’s tourist highlights Hoa Lo prison is a destination not to be missed when come to Vietnam.