For nearly 142 years, Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary served as a model institution for criminal rehabilitation and reform. Dating back to 1829, such famous criminals as Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton saw themselves incarcerated within the prison's walls. In 1971, the prison closed it's doors and the castle-like structure was left to decay. In 1994 Eastern State Penitentiary was opened to the public as a museum.
|Actual Prison Cell|
Eastern State Penitentiary was designed by John Haviland, an architect born in England, who was responsible for some of the more prominent structures built in Philadelphia during the 19th Century. At first glance, Eastern State Penitentiary's appearance resembles a castle-like fortress. It was built in the Gothic architectural style, and was the largest public works project of it's time The prison's walls are 30 feet tall and 12 feet thick at the base. It's appearance was meant to intimidate any and all criminals.
|Al Capone's furnished jail cell.|
Eastern State's most famous inmate was none other than Chicago mobster Al Capone. After the infamous Saint Valentine's Day Massacare, Al Capone struck a deal to enter prison after being charged for carrying a concealed deadly weapon. Capone thought that a prison stay would be a good way to evade Elliot Ness for a while. Capone entered eastern state Penitentiar in 1929, and was granted his release a year later for "Good Behavior". During his time in jail, Chicago's most famous gangster was sheltered from the other inmates in the prison. Al Capone was treated like a celebrity. His jail cell was furnished with actual furniture, and it was located just feet away from the prisoner's release exit. The prison's barber was also conveniently located opposite of Capone's cell.
This past fall, I visited Eastern State Penitentiary for the second time. As a fan of historical sites and urban decay, I couldn't pass up the chance at photographing the prison one more time. The prison walls walls hold within many stories and historical facts If you find yourself in Philadelphia, definitely take the trip out to the Fairmont Section and take the prison's walking tour. The tour is ironically narrated by Steve Buscemi, of Boardwalk Empire fame. If you think the prison itself looks creepy enough during the daytime, each October the Penitentiary is transformed into a haunted house for a nightly presentation of "Terror Behind the Walls."
For more information regarding Eastern State Penitentiary, visit the official web site at http://www.easternstate.org/