Whilst in Philadelphia, we made it a priority to visit the Eastern State Penitentiary – one of the oldest standing penitentiaries in the United States. We are both interested in historical buildings and love anything that looks somewhat abandoned hence are general love for visiting prisons – yeah it’s a weird thing to do whilst on holiday but oh well.
Anyway, from our hotel on Broad St, we jumped in a taxi and headed to the Penitentiary. It was fairly quiet on this sunny day with very few other visitors around. Like the Alcatraz Tour, we were given an audio guide (narrated by Steve Buscemi.) While scouting a location for a film, Buscemi visited the Philadelphia Eastern State Penitentiary and found the building so interesting that he later provided the majority of the narration for the audio tour that led us around the building. Admission was $14 for adult entrance and students and children (aged 7-12) costs $10.
You can tell by the state of the penitentiary that they haven’t tried to renovate or maintain some of the wings. As you walk up rickety staircases and stare down the long wings of the penitentiary, the rusting walls and creaking jail bars make it an eerie place. You can’t help but get the shivers.
As we wandered around the penitentiary, we learnt about the different escape attempts and notable characters that spent time in the penitentiary. We learnt about how Leo Callahan was the only person to escape using a makeshift wooden ladder and was never recaptured.
I was particularly impressed with Al Capone’s cell (more luxurious than my Uni dorm), the cell of which he spent eight months in during his first prison sentence. He had a cabinet radio, comfy furniture and high-quality rugs to make him feel at home.
This place is kind of breathtaking which sounds like a really odd way to describe a penitentiary but it really is a stunning place to visit.