The Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia was built in 1829 and was in continuous operation until 1971. Over the decades, the prison has housed some of the most famous criminals in the United States. Willie Sutton, Al Capone, James Bruno and others have called the Eastern State Penitentiary home.
In 1965 it was added to the National Historic Landmarks list and in 1966 to the National Register of Historic Places. The old prison is now operating as a historic museum and is open to the public year-round for guided and self-guided tours. General admission tickets can be purchased online or at the door, ranging in price from $10.00 to $14.00 per person.
The Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Avenue
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19130
When the prison first opened it was considered to be the world’s first “true” penitentiary’s and was certainly the most expensive one at the time. The cells were relatively small, but they did contain running water, flush-style toilets (flushed twice a week by prison guards), and were made of concrete. Each cell typically contained a cot-style bed and small table in regards to furnishings. Some prisoners were allowed to have more furnishings and other items…depending on who they were and what they were incarcerated for.
Cell blocks 1 through 3 were a single floor, but due to over-crowding…all of the subsequent cell blocks were 2 floors. Cell block 15 is where you would find the worst criminals being housed and they were kept in isolation from the rest of the prison population. Outside the prisoners had a small exercise yard and some prisoners were allowed to garden and have pets.
If you’re a fan of beautiful and historical art…you’ll love exploring this old prison. Throughout the prison you’ll encounter various works of art…from sculptures to dioramas, and everything in between. If you enjoy “looking” for things while doing a tour…you may want to participate in one of their themed scavenger hunts when they’re being offered. Always a lot of fun!
The Eastern State Penitentiary has been featured in the films Animal Factory and Twelve Monkeys, and has been featured on the television shows Fear, Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters. If you’re a fan of the TV crime show drama “Cold Case” which is set in Philadelphia, you would of seen the old prison featured in one of their episodes too.
While millions of people visit Philadelphia every year to visit the historical attractions like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, etc. We really think a visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary Museum should be on your bucket list too! It’s a family-friendly attraction that is open year-round.