Philadelphia, PA

Enjoy The Eerie Stuff? Plan a Visit to This Historic Pennsylvania Prison

Melissa Frost
Photo byLance Anderson on Unsplash

Eastern State Penitentiary.

Have you heard of it? Built in 1829, Eastern State Penitentiary, a now-closed prison in Philadelphia, quickly became known as most expensive prison in the world.

True regret

Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was also the first true penitentiary, a prison designed to inspire penitence, in other words - true regret - among those incarcerated.

Their model, to reform criminals through strict isolation other than daily visits from the warden and guards, became a model for prison design. An estimated 300 prisons on four continents used Eastern’s distinctive floor plan, commonly named “wagon-wheel”, as a blueprint.

A landmark

The original design of the building was for seven one-story cell blocks, but by the time cell block three was completed, the prison was over capacity, and all the following cell blocks had two floors. With capacity and overcrowding still being an issue, cell blocks 14 and 15 were built. Block 15 was for the worst behaved prisoners, and the guards were completely gated off from there.

After 142 years in use, Eastern State closed its doors as a prison in 1971.

Since then, it has been named a National Historic Landmark and is today welcoming visitors and guests to get a glimpse into what once was.

Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of the country's most notorious lawbreakers. On the list, you'll find bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and Al Capone. The walls in this prison, today in ruin, is filled with history.

Address: 2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130

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Melissa is a journalist and content writer. She covers food, travel and local news, mostly from PA.

Lititz, PA

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