Saturday, May 15, 2010

"365 Project" - Day 135 - "Eastern State Penitentiary"

May 15, 2010 - "Eastern State Penitentiary"

Made a last-minute decision to swing up to Philadelphia today. Headed straight for a place I've wanted to visit for years: Eastern State Penitentiary.

ESP opened in 1821 and was the first true penitentiary in the United States. It was a radial-design prison... with all of the cell-blocks radiating from a central hub and tower, like spokes on a wheel. The prison focused on complete solitary confinement. Cells are very, very small... with tiny doors which forced inmates to crouch in order to enter. Each room had only a very tiny window in the ceiling, directing a small amount of light onto the floor. Inmates could not see out of their cell at all... and were forced to remain silent.

Some cells had private outdoor recreation areas. These were small kennel-like areas... with high stone walls and concrete floors. Again, the inmate could see the sky... but nothing else. They were allowed only 30-minutes in the recreation area per day.

The prison closed in 1971... and quickly fell into disrepair. Paint peeled... plaster fell... mattresses and blankets deteriorated... roofs sagged... stray cats claimed the buildings as their own.

And then there were the ghosts... but that's another story!

Today the prison is on the National Register of Historic Places. Tours are conducted daily... and art exhibits now fill cells that once housed tortured inmates.

I wandered the halls... the sound of my boots echoing in the cold darkness. I couldn't help but think of how horrible it must have been to have to be stuck here.

I snapped around 200 photos inside and around the prison... yet this one was my favorite. This was taken at the entrance of a cell-block that is closed-off to visitors... and has remained untouched since the prison closed in 1971. No one has walked down this hall in almost 40 years... yet looking down the corridor you just can't help but feel that there still is "something" there... in each of those cells.

It truly is an eerie feeling!

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