Saturday, September 12, 2009

Eastern State Penitentiary

Beth had the great idea to go tour Eastern State Penitentiary, so Kim, Alex, and I met her there at 21st and Fairmount. We didn't know what to expect other than that it would be really really cool! The gloomy, overcast day was perfect for a trip to ruins of one of the historic prisons in America.

In its day, ESP was the most expensive public building, due to its individual cells each sporting heating, flushing toilets and exercise yards. The solitary confinement was designed not to punish the incarcerated, but to prove them with the opportunity to reflect on their crimes, and thus was called a "penitentiary." The cells were arranged in a radial floor plan with a central hub and tower from which 8 wings radiate out, surrounded by a thirty foot wall. This allowed for guards in the middle to simultaneously see all of the cells in the prison at any time. This influential floor
plan became the inspiration for over 300 prisons built world wide.

As part of the admission fee, each patron is given an audio-tour headset that provides a tour of most features in the prison. You can divert off the tour to visit several art installations and exhibits strewn about the grounds. We spent about 2 hours at the prison and were very satisfied with the tour. It was a great way to spend the afternoon seeing one of Philadelphia's most impressive landmarks.

More pics on facebook.

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