Eastern State Penitentary, Philadelphia

4.5 out of 5 stars 12 Reviews

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  • Eastern State Penitentary
    by implicat
  • Eastern State Penitentary
    by implicat
  • Eastern State Penitentary
    by implicat
  • Interesting, Eerie and Historic

    by implicat Written Nov 17, 2011

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    The details: Eastern State Penitentiary, Location 2027 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19130. A note about the location, this is just north of City Center, not far from the Philadelphia Art Museum. It is now located right in the middle of a neighborhood. The neighborhood is a little sketchy in areas but I had no problems while visiting the site. Parking: There is on street parking but also a good sized parking lots right to the West of the Penitentiary. The cost for parking was $8 for two hours. The entrance to Eastern State Penitentiary is cleary marked from the street. When you go inside you pay for tickets, $12, there is a $1 off coupon on their website. Included in your admission price is the audio tour, which was great. You are also given a map which shows the route of the audio tour, not really needed for the audio portion. The map also shows things not on the audio tour so it can be useful.

    As you make your way into the Penitentiary, depending on what season, you will notice how cold it is inside. The day I went it was around 55 degrees outside and I would say in most of the building it was around 45 degrees, staff had portable heaters keeping the area they were in warm. As you begin the audio tour and walking down the long halls you think to yourself how bad it must have been to be imprisoned here...then you realize the building isn’t in the best condition and the actual cells were nicer but still it is prison. The audio tour was great and really gave you an in-depth history of most areas of the Penitentiary, but I would also suggest taking the head phones off and just walking down the halls to get a real feel of how eerie this place really is. Make sure you really look around; there are a lot of not so well marked areas that are interesting. There are also special tours at different times each hour, they are only about 5 minutes long but are guided interactions with a member of the staff. It is hard to go into real detail but I would highly recommend visiting Eastern State Penitentiary.

    A little note I went during the week in November, there were probably only 10-15 others touring the site, so it was eerie but I would believe more interesting without large crowds. I believe in December and January the tours are guided...I would suggest going during the non-guided months. Also another quick note I have heard the rumors of the site being haunted, I will tell you when I was outside in the prisoner courtyard something interesting happened. I was taking some pictures and looking around; I was the only visitor out there at that time. While I was taking a picture of the courtyard I heard a footstep on the gravel path behind, I literally whipped around and no one was there...interesting. Enjoy your visit to Eastern State Penitentiary.

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    Eastern State Penitentiary Tour

    by apbeaches Written Oct 1, 2009

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    This was the countries first true penitentiary, designed to inspire penitence (regret). The cellblocks spread like wheel spokes and had central heat & running water before the White House. We took the Audio Tour which guided us through Death Row, the Hole, Barbershop, Escapes, Riots, Sports, Women, Al Capone's Cell, the Greenhouse, Library, Parole, and Synagogue.

    Several Guided Tours were available. We took "Escape"; our informative guide showed us photo's and details about the 100 men that escaped from Eastern State Pen. We missed the tours of "Prison Uprisings", "Life Behind Walls" and "the Synagogue".

    We were all impressed with Troy Richards: The Criminal Us. Almost a hundred anonymous confessions were posted on the walls. Some were strange, some funny and others really scarey.

    The guide was infomative and staff was positioned all around the penitentiary & were knowledgeable. There was a small gift shop and porto potties.

    It was amazing how high the 30 ft. wall looked from the inside when it was actually higher from the outside.

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  • Something for everybody

    by GrannyGrump42 Written Sep 21, 2008

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    The southwest tower along Fairmount.
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    Eastern State Penitentiary is an amazing destination, well-managed, and offering a plethora of experiences all for the cost of your basic admission ticket.

    Stroll along Fairmount avenue, with the massive Gothic walls on one side, and quaint shops and restaurants on the other. Enter through the imposing gatehouse, through an underground passage, and get ready to begin.

    You'll get a headset for a self-paced audio tour, complete with clear directions on where to walk and how to spot interesting features. Hear the voices of past guards, wardens, and inmates as they tell of the history and of life and work behind the walls.

    You're permitted to wander at will through the public areas and to peer into the non-public areas that are not yet safe or are reserved for special tours. Photogenic shots are everywhere, from massive vaulted ceilings and skylights to the details of rivets and moldering furnishings. Several times a day you can gather near Al Capone's cell to be led on a special theme tour, included in the price of your ticket.

    Scattered throughout the premises are artistic projects that enhance the experience. A perennial favorite is Ghost Cats, commemorating the feral cats that once populated the abandoned prison. Additional signs describe interesting events, places, and people, often cuing you to listen to more on your headset.

    For a mere $30, you can become a member and visit as often as you like for a year. This is a bargain, little more than the cost of a single visit plus a t-shirt (which you get with your membership).

    If you can only see one thing during your stay in Philly, make it Eastern State Penitentary.

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    These walls don't talk, but say a lot

    by brazwhazz Written Oct 25, 2007
    Eastern State Penitentiary from the outside
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    Eastern State Penitentiary is a must for almost everyone. Whether you are interested in history, like exploring ruins (although "stabilized", they still look creepy) or enjoy following in the footsteps of celebrities (not only was Al Capone imprisoned here, but the photogenic building has shown up in various movies and photos over the years), chances are you will find something that catches your eye or read or hear a story you will remember.

    There is so much to see, we ended up choosing only certain numbers from the map to visit after the obligatory audio tour of Cell Block 1. For those who want to know more about certain aspects of the penitentiary, there is also a series of themed guided tours.

    Eastern State Penitentiary is open daily from April to November from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reservations aren't necessary.

    Finally, for those who aren't impressed by the penitentiary in the daytime, there is the "Terror Behind the Walls" tour on certain nights in September, October and November, although I didn't try it out.

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    Historic or Haunted ??

    by April1985 Written May 24, 2007

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    The State Penn is the best thing to do on halloween ! The 12 O'Clock show is the scarest of all (keep the kiddies out of this one ) Of course that is the one I went in ! Hhhaah . It was so cold, so wet (raining) and so SCARY ! it was the best halloween I ever had ! The jail comes to life with haunting inmates, stalking you through the court yard, and jumping out at you from dark stairwells.. it was absolutly ... amazing ... I advise you to check it out and visit ! (especially on halloween) However during the other months, it is a historic walk through where you learn abuot who stayed there , and in which cell and if and why it is haunted and how they know , you can see the weapons the inmates created and you can visit the different areas of the jail .. its fun, even if they arent jumping out at you ! It is america's most historic pennitentary, and it has a ton of history! You can walk out of here knowing so much ! Normal Admission is $9 Adults $7 Students $7Senior Citizens $4 Kids (Age 7 - 12) . Before you go into the pennitentary, they make you sign a waver , that says you understand tha tthe site is in poor condition and if you get hurt you can not hold them responsible .. which means .. dont play around and you'll be fine .. its an old shut down jail .. respect the fact that you can still go in and check it out .. its kool ! dont make them shut it down on us .. cuz that would suck ..

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    Eerily Majestic

    by Reznut Updated Nov 12, 2005

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    One of the eerie corridors
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    If you love architecture and history, you will love Eastern State Penitentiary. Most travel itineraries do not include a visit to a prison but this one deserves to be added to your list of "must see" locations.

    There is an optional audio tour at no additional cost (which I recommend) but there are enough signs posted throughout to explain the areas and the history of this Big House.

    Hours: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (last entry at 4:00 pm)
    Wednesdays through Sundays only.

    It is CLOSED on Mondays and Tuesdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, and the entire months of December through March. Be sure to plan accordingly if you want to visit Eastern State!

    This tip page to be continued ...

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    Prison History

    by sweetee Updated Aug 29, 2005
    Eastern State Penitentiary Interior...spooky

    Probably not a usual stop on the tourist list, but the tour of the Eastern State Penitentiary is an intriguing side trip for those interested in the unusual. The Penitentiary has one of the most interesting audio tours I have taken. Narrated by Steve Buscemi, it recounts the Penitentiary's controversial history as a solitary confinement facility, its fascinating radial, architectural design and its infamous inmates, like Al Capone.

    Go on a cloudy day to add some mystique to the overall experience. Even better, if you happen to be in Philadelphia during Halloween, go to the special haunted house erected over the holiday. Very fitting venue.

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    A scary experience...

    by JacquelineRenee Written May 13, 2005
    A view of the watch towers from the interior cour

    Featured on MTV's "Fear"...built by the good ol' Quakers back in 1829. The Quakers believed that the best way to rehabilitate criminals was to isolate them from society, give them a Bible, and make them reflect long and hard...alone. The prisoners were never allowed to talk to or see one another - they were completely isolated from all human contact. They had private courtyards that they would be allowed to exercise in for a short time each day, but they would never be outside at the same time as their neighbors, so there was never any chance of conversation!

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    Eastern State Penitentiary

    by acemj Written Jan 22, 2005

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    This was once the most well-known prison in the world. It was the result of a brainstorming session at Benjamin Franklin's house in Philadelphia. You see, at the time (the late 18th century) prisons in both the United States and in Europe were basically just holding pens where criminals were left to themselves leading to all kinds of atrocities behind prison walls. As a result of this meeting spearheaded by The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons, the Eastern State Penitentiary finally became a reality in 1829. At the time, it was the most expensive building in America and prisoners were put to work with the hope of bringing them to social and even spiritual reform (the word "penitentiary" is a result of this Quaker-inspired hope that prisoners would truly become penitent). Soon, the ESP became the model for prisons worldwide.

    The prison closed in 1971 and between April and November from Wednesday to Sunday you can visit the prison and get a taste of what it was like to be an inmate here.

    In October, in the weeks leading up to Halloween, there is an incredibly popular haunted house that is one of the biggest revenue sources for the ESP and a big traffic nightmare for those of us who live in the neighborhood!

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    The "BIG HOUSE"

    by Pawtuxet Updated Dec 16, 2004

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    The Penetentury

    This amazing structure became a model for other prisons in its day. Built by the Quakers in the 1800's. Today there are tours offered and on Halloween it becomes a haunted house tour. Pretty creepy fellows line up to take the tour...and it is said that one should be most careful on these cold, dark nights....

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    Eastern State Penitentiary

    by jltan Written Oct 4, 2003

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    Philadelphia's answer to San Francisco's Alcatraz.

    The world's first true "Penitentiary", the prison was opened in 1829. And after 142 years of 'hosting' various criminals (including Al Capone), the Penitentiary was finally abandoned.

    Tours are conducted from 10am to 5pm. Last entry: 4pm. $9 Adult/$7 Students & Seniors, $4 Kids.

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    Behind Prison Bars

    by Phillylawyer_19107 Written Jun 20, 2003

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    One of the most interesting sights of Philadelphia is the Eastern State Penitentiary, a prison closed in 1970. It was opened in 1829 and became a model prison for the (in)famous isolation treatment. In later years, even Al Capone was an inmate for a while. Now it is a quite famous museum and also a setting for many movies or movie scenes.
    Visitors get a guided tour through certain parts of the museum (these parts differ on each tour, so it is worth going there several times), the isolation system and the trends of Criminal Law / Prison life throughout the ages are explained. The guides are well informed and make the tours very interesting. In addition to the regular tours, there are temporary exhibits of high degree, and the yearly spooky Halloween event. The Eastern State Penitentiary is a definite must!

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