Peculiarly situated in the artsy Fairmount neighborhood, Eastern State is an anachronism, a dark, brooding castle looming over several city blocks. Opened in 1829, Eastern State revolutionized the prison system by promoting penitence through a Quaker-inspired system of isolation. Constructed in the shape of a wagon wheel, prisoners were housed in seven cellblocks which radiated from a central rotunda, a design that allowed for each inmate to have their own outdoor area, insuring that all prisoners would be kept in solitary confinement. The model was criticized by some as inhumane, and was undeniably costly, leading to its closure in 1970. After sitting dormant for nearly 25 years, the prison was opened to the public for regular tours in 1994. Now, visitors can stroll the cellblocks, step inside the weathered cages and listen to the voices, and stories, of former inmates. Don’t miss Al Capone’s well-appointed cell, where he spent eight months in 1929. Other notable inmates include bank robber “Slick” Willie Sutton and Pep “The Cat-Murdering Dog,” who was supposedly sentenced to life at Eastern State after allegedly murdering the governor’s wife’s cat.
- Open Hours: Monday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 05:00 PM
Attractions & Landmarks
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