On our second day in Philadelphia, we decided to visit the ever-mysterious Eastern State Penitentiary. Now, this is not an ordinary prison; Unlike most prisons, Eastern State Penitentiary is located smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood, surrounded by fortress-like walls that go up 30 feet high. Eastern State is considered to many as America’s first true penitentiary, and has been home to many famous criminals such as Al Capone.
Pictured above is what a typical hallway looked like throughout its massive cell-block structure. An interesting tidbit – at the end of this hallway is the main corridor, a circular room, in which a guard could stand at its center and see down any of the 9 hallways of the prison.
A typical cell at the beginning of ESP’s existence completely isolated the prisoners from what went on in the hallways of the prison. Inside the rooms were the typical bed, sink, and toilet. Certain rooms contained a skylight, which was seen as torture to many inmates, as it would offer hope to those who would never see the outside of the walls ever again. Many inmates were lucky enough to have an “activity” area through a door at the back of their cell, which would lead to a very small enclosed area outdoors. During their time at ESP, many inmates never saw another inmate and had little to no human contact.
This hallway was very spooky to us, but we learned an interesting tidbit about why that red cross existed in the middle of the gate. This is where inmates from this hallway would come to seek medical attention. There were many inmates who had their teeth pulled at this gate, in which the dentist performed it through the cross in the gate.
Our time at Eastern State Penitentiary was very fulfilling and offered us insight into the beginning of our American prison system. We learned so much about famous inmates, and also about what life is like behind bars. Eastern State is such a creepy and mysterious place, but we highly recommend it as a stop if you’re ever in Philadelphia!
As always, thanks for reading!