After our breakfast at Reading Terminal Market, we immediately proceeded to Eastern State Penitentiary. We were not able to visit this place the first time we went to Philadelphia as there was not enough time for us to do so which is why I made sure that we’d be able to see it on our second trip to Philly.
Eastern State Penitentiary is considered to be the world’s first true penitentiary. It has set the standard of penal reform which focuses on the belief that solitary confinement could reform criminals. It has housed the who’s who of the criminal world including of course the Godfather himself, Al Capone. It is open from 10am to 5pm with an entrance fee of USD14 per person which includes an audio guide and an access to the grounds of the whole prison. It was absolutely worth it.
At the very start of the tour, you will immediately see how frustrating it must be for prisoners to be in a solitary confinement for the whole duration of their jail sentence. Originally, inmates were housed in small cells with doors so small that will require anyone to bow their heads down to get in and out of it. Inside the cell, there was a wash bin and a toilet which would flush only twice a week. It was mentioned that the Eastern State Penitentiary had running water, central heat and flushing toilet even before the White House did which comes to the other point why this place was so famous – its architectural design is one of a kind specially during those times.
The solitary confinement system was eventually ended when the prison got overcrowded. It operated as a normal, congregate prison until it stopped operating in 1970. During this time, the facility was known to torture the inmates physically and psychologically. A particular place in the prison called “The Hole” was where they would put the worst behaved prisoners for days with no light, no human contact and very little food.
After our audio tour, we’re allowed to explore the grounds of Eastern State Penitentiary on our own. Specific points of interest would still have narration which you can still access on your audio guide. Of course, being the movie addict that I am – I had to see Al Capone’s cell when he was incarcerated there. His cell was extremely special. First, his cell was separate from all the other inmates’. Second, he was the only one allowed to furnish his own cell complete with rugs, antiques and oil paintings. Clearly, he received a special treatment for reasons nobody really knows.
The whole experience was something very unique. Eastern State Penitentiary is eerily beautiful and enigmatic. They do some special tours for Halloween to showcase the haunted side of it. I’d probably do it again if I can.
Entrance fee for the Eastern State Penitentiary is USD14 per person including audio guide. Parking is available just outside the walls of the prison which is for free for the first two hours. The whole tour lasted for only an hour for us.
See more of our Philadelphia Visit:
Where To Eat in Philadelphia: Reading Terminal Market
Photo Blog: Philadelphia, You’re Absolutely Lovely!
Things To Do in Philadelphia: Sensory Overload at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens