PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WHTM) — Thursday’s Destination Pennsylvania takes us to the Fairmount section of Philadelphia, where you’ll find one of the state’s most unique attractions: The Eastern State Penitentiary.
When driving down 22nd and Fairmount Ave you can’t miss this huge castle like building. Within these walls is one of the oldest prisons in America.
The penitentiary was operational as a prison for 142 years from 1829 until 1971. And then after 1971, it sat abandoned for almost 20 years before it became the historic site of the museum that it is today.
Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America’s most notorious lawbreakers, including “Slick Willie” Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone.
Mr. Capone spent a lot of his life in prison, but his first time in prison was at Eastern State. He got caught with a gun at a movie theater, which carried a maximum sentence of one year in prison for concealing and carrying a deadly weapon.
Many of the prisoners serving time spent their days looking for ways to escape. On April 3, 1945, 12 men, including the famous bank robber Willie Sutton, all escaped from a tunnel they made.
Clarence, a trusted prisoner, performed all sorts of maintenance on the building, so he lived in the cell with unique access to all sorts of tools. For about one year he dug a tunnel from the corner of this cell all the way out onto Fairmount Avenue.
There are endless stories of what happened inside the penitentiary’s walls. You can learn about them in-person at day or night. The summer night tours even feature a beer garden.
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Most of our visitors experience the museum through a self guided audio tour, which is narrated by actor and director Steve Buscemi.
There is so much to see and learn inside the Eastern State Penitentiary, one of the most famous prisons in the world.
Visit the Eastern State Penitentiary to experience its rich history, its architectural significance, and its connection to the American criminal justice system today.