Eastern State Penitentiary
Radical 19th century prison designed to create social change
Eastern State Penitentiary set the standard for penal reform, with its soaring, castle-like Gothic architecture and its founders’ Quaker-inspired belief that solitary confinement could reform criminals. The 11-acre prison even had central heat, running water and flush toilets before the White House! A Who’s Who of the underworld – bank robber Willie Sutton, who staged a breakout in 1945, and Al Capone, who furnished his cell with antiques, rugs and oil paintings – both served time here.
Tours include a look at life inside the prison’s historic cell blocks, Al Capone’s restored 19th-century cell, stories of inmate escapes, and critically acclaimed art installations. The annual “Terror Behind the Walls” tours – running select nights from September until November – are the region’s premier Halloween event!
When Eastern State opened in 1829, visitors from around the world marveled at its grand architecture (John Havilland) and radical philosophy. The experiment, to reform criminals through strict isolation, soon became a model for prison design world wide. An estimated 300 prisons on four continents are based on Eastern’s distinctive “wagon-wheel” floor plan. Once the most expensive building in the USA, Eastern State was finally abandoned in 1971 after 142 years in use. It is a National Historic Landmark.
Terror Behind The Walls
Terror Behind the Walls is a blockbuster fall attraction and is considered one of the top haunted houses in the country. Click here to visit our page on Eastern State’s annual Halloween haunted house inside the penitentiary.
Eastern State Penitentiary offers a Scavenger Hunt activity guide, free with admission for children ages 7-12.
The historic site is now effectively open seven days a week all year round, except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas day, and New Year’s day.
ESP also offers Winter Adventure Tours during the “off season” from December 1 through March 14. The tours consist of a one-hour guided walk through the empty penitentiary by an expert tour guide.
Reservations are recommended. Winter Adventure Tours are offered: Mondays through Fridays – 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays – Every half hour from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Bring a camera! Photographers travel from all over the country to capture Eastern’s cathedral-like cellblocks and haunting, sky-lit prison cells. Insiders call the Penitentiary “ESP.”
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Latest Eastern State Penitentiary Stories from Uwishunu.com
April 11, 2014Eastern State Penitentiary Debuts Its Annual Pop-Up Museum, A Limited-Time-Only Look At Historic Prison Artifacts, April 12-22
January 16, 2014Roundup: Our Picks For Martin Luther King Day Celebrations In Philadelphia, Including Free And Discounted Admission To Some Of The City’s Popular Museums
January 13, 2014Eastern State Penitentiary Celebrates Martin Luther King Day With A Full Weekend Of Free Activities, January 18-20
January 7, 2014Deal Feed: Philadelphia CityPASS Winter Special Allows Customers More Time To Use Tickets To Top Attractions, Through February 28
December 9, 2013Explore Eastern State Penitentiary As It Brings Back Its Annual Winter Adventure Tours, Through March 14, 2014
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In the neighborhood
Museums & Attractions
Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 22nd Street Philadelphia, PA 19101
- Stephen Girard Collection
- Eastern State Penitentiary Tour
- Lemon Hill
- Campus Philly College Day
- Philadelphia Museum of Art
- North Star Bar & Grille
- CityPASS Philadelphia
- Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building
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