The Hoa Lo Prison holds an important place in the history of the country and even in American and French culture. Originally built by the French colonialists who ran the country at the time, the Hoa La Prison was created in the year 1904 to house Vietnamese revolutionists, ensuring French rule was left unchallenged, at this time, the prison went by the name of Maison Centrale, a term used by the French to refer to prisons in their own home country. During the Vietnam-American War, though, the Hoa Lo Prison was used by North Vietnamese Army forces to hold captured American Air Force pilots. It was during this conflict that the Hoa Lo Prison earned the grimly sarcastic nickname “Hanoi Hilton”.
Today, parts of the prison remain as a museum. In 1999, as Vietnam started becoming a more popular tourist destination, Hilton actually built a hotel in Hanoi, but carefully avoided calling the spot “The Hanoi Hilton”, instead calling it the Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel.