Photos from a Philadelphia prison

Monday, May 28, 2012

I go to a lot of museums. The biggies are great, but I tend to prefer the pleasures from bite-sized portions of more out-of-the-way, unexpected ones like Bucharest's National Museum of the Romanian Peasant (hand-written signs about how to love your grandma), Oklahoma's Woolaroc (largely for nostalgic purposes) and Hanoi's bizarre Ho Chi Minh Museum, with Soviet-inspired exhibits of winner detergent boxes.

I'm adding one more to the list: Philadelphia's super Eastern State Penitentiary, considered the country's first prison and example of 'modern architecture,' whatever that means. It operated as a 'solitary' prison, all inmates had own cells, from the early 1800s till 1971, when it was abandoned into a eery ruin. Self-guided tours of the paint-peeling site not far from Philadelphia Museum of Art 'Rocky steps' are $12 and I could easily have spent three or four hours. I will go back.

Here are some photos that make up yet another reason why more people should go to Philadelphia.

Bulletin board outside one cell

A certain 'Chico' put his name in here in 1960
Me with original cell toilet
Cell blocks radiate out spoke-like from center
Failed escapee carved a (hard to see) face, below the light
Prison's baseball field
Sting came her for (close-up) photo for an album cover
Castle-like exterior made solely to intimidate -- it did to Charles Dickens
(Modern) art in one of the cells
Much of the cell interiors left as is/was

Al Capone's cell was nicer than most
All cells were solitary, each with tiny outdoor area - this would be only view you'd get

Art penciled-in over one cell doorway