This prison gained notoriety during the 1960s, when US prisoners-of-war here dubbed it the "Hanoi Hilton," an ironic comment on the terrible conditions that they had to endure. It was originally built by the French in 1896 and was called Maison Centrale. In those days it was used to house Vietnamese prisoners who were fighting to rid the country of its colonial oppressors, and it continued to operate until the 1990s. Most of the buildings were then razed to make way for the Hanoi Towers, which now stand on the site, but a small section of the prison was kept as a museum to show the world how cruelly Vietnamese independence fighters were treated. The dingy cells feature plaster models of emaciated prisoners shackled in chains, and it's easy to imagine how awful the experience for inmates must have been. One room displays a gruesome guillotine, and a couple of other rooms show items that once belonged to American prisoners, along with photographs of them apparently having fun playing volleyball and laughing together.