The Eastern State Penitentiary is a former prison located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The prison was opened in 1829 and was active until it’s closure in 1971 and is famous for being the first “real” penitentiary in the world. It is now a US National Historic Landmark. The prison once housed some of the most notorious criminals, including “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone. Today the prison sits in ruins and is open for tours 10am to 5pm most days of the year, only excluding the major holidays. The tour fee is $16 a person, with discounts for seniors, students, and children as well as discounts when purchased online ahead of time.
Eastern State Penitentiary at its completion was the largest and most expensive building in the United States at the time. The prison would serve as a model for over 300 prisons around the world. It’s unique design included a wagon wheel floor plan.
When opened the prison was designed to bring about social change and revolutionary changes in solitary confinement. The prison practiced strict isolation policies and wardens/guards were the only visitors and required to visit each inmate daily.
Interesting fact: In 1945 twelve inmates, including the infamous Willie Sutton carried out an escape through a 97 foot tunnel dug under the prison’s wall. When additions were being made in the 1930’s 30 other unfinished tunnels were discovered.
Al Capone was held at Eastern State Penitentiary after his arrest in May 1929 for carrying an unlicensed revolver. He was given the maximum sentence of 1 year. He was, however, treated very nicely by the Eastern State staff. His still, which was recently renovated, is on display for visitors to Eastern State.
For those of you that are thrill seekers…Eastern State Penitentiary is believed by many to be haunted. In the fall months (September and October), Eastern State does a massive haunted house within the cell blocks, which has been called the #1 haunted house in the country. If that sounds interesting to you check out their website here.
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