The Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) is located on 2027 Fairmount Avenue, in the Fairmount neighborhood, of Northern Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Philadelphia Prison was designed by John Haviland and is considered to be the world’s first true penitentiary. It was designed with spiritual intentions with walls that were made to feel like a church, the cell windows were called ‘Eye of God’, and to push inmates towards spiritual reflection. In truth it was not as spiritual as you would think, physical and psychological torture of the prisoners which included, chaining their tongues to their wrists, strapping prisoners into chairs with tight restraints for long periods of time, pouring cold water on them outside during the winter months, and throwing the worst prisoners into ‘The Hole’, a pit dug under cell block 14 for as long as two weeks.
Guided or audio tours take all the adventure out of urban exploration but this prison still deserves a visit. ESP began operation in 1829 and closed in 1971 and was there after abandoned. During the 1980’s, while it was abandoned, it became overgrown and provided shelter for many stray cats. In 1994 it opened to the public for tours and is kept in a generally ‘preserved ruin’ state. Though, over the years many restored cells have appeared to help maintain the museum status of the prison as well as activities, including paranormal and Halloween adventures.
In 1924, the then current Pennsylvania Governor sentenced a ‘cat murdering dog’ Pep, to a life sentence for killing his wife’s cat. Pets were allowed to be kept by inmates and they were even allowed to garden.
The prison was home to some notorious criminals like Al Capone and Willie Sutton. By the 1930’s renovations were done and over 30 tunnels dug by inmates trying to escape were found. In 1945, 12 inmates succeeded in escaping by digging a 97 foot tunnel underneath the prison walls.
There are literally a variety of books that can be purchased to learn various parts of history and information on the prison on Amazon
You can find more about touring the facility Here.
You can find this old jail with these coordinates. 39.96829,-75.172752.
All images used and licensed under CC BY NC SA 2.0. All images by Trevor Patt / Flickr.