Philadelphia has a rich history which rivals that of any other major American city. While we’re all familiar with colonial historical sites like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, history buffs can find a huge range of historical sites covering every era from the colonial days until the present. In our opinion, Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the most impressive historical sites in the area and a must-see for historical tourists passing through the city. Here are some of the reasons why our Philadelphia adoption agents feel so strongly about this piece of American history:
History of Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary is found in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia. While it’s a National Historic Landmark today, the prison was operational for over 140 years – from 1829 until 1971. Some of America’s most notorious criminals have been incarcerated there, including Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton. When the prison was constructed, it was the largest and most expensive public structure in the history of the United States. It would also become a model for over 300 other prisons across the globe. Eastern State Penitentiary is widely considered the world’s first true penitentiary. The penitentiary was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1965.
Eastern State Penitentiary offers daytime tours, which feature a variety of interesting exhibits related to the prison, prisons today, and other related subjects. Some current and upcoming exhibits at Eastern State Penitentiary include:
Hidden Lives, Illuminated
Debuting in fall 2019, Hidden Lives, Illuminated is an exhibition that tells the story of daily life inside of the American prison system through four animated short films, all created by artists living or working inside American prisons. Each film will be projected onto the outside of Eastern State for one week, along with a soundtrack that viewers can download and listen to through their smartphones.
This exhibit discusses the current state of the United States prison system, examining what led to our having the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 2.2 million citizens currently incarcerated.
Al Capone’s Cell
One of the biggest draws to Eastern State Penitentiary, Al Capone’s cell is on display during all public hours at the museum. Capone served 8 months of a 1-year sentence at Eastern State, and he was privileged enough to enjoy many indulgences not afforded to other prisoners, such as high-end furniture, oriental rugs, oil paintings, and a radio.
Terror Behind the Walls
Each Halloween season, Eastern State Penitentiary holds the Terror Behind the Walls event, in which the prison is transformed into a hair-raising Halloween hellscape. Zombies, monsters, aliens, and other horror characters terrorize guests through six different haunted attractions, which include:
- Blood Yard
- Machine Shop
- Lock Down
- Quarantine 4D
- Break Out!