I was in Philadelphia for the first time for work to attend Greenbuild with my coworkers. It was a great conference – I got to hear Hillary Clinton speak and jam to Bon Jovi live. Once work was complete, Nick joined me in Philly for the weekend. We of course visited all the typical tourist spots; but at first, the rainy weekend made us not like Philly so much. The City of Brotherly Love started to change our minds as we explored the quaint neighborhoods, Stephen Starr restaurants, Reading Market, the Barnes Foundation, and so much more.
One of our favorite spots in Philly was Eastern State. Several of my coworkers are native Philadelphians and had mentioned the former prison as a must-see spot. I’m so glad we made the effort to get there. Good ol’ Wikipedia will tell you that ESP is thought to be the world’s first true penitentiary. The 8-foot thick wall enclosing the property is enough to make you think you’ve stumbled upon a castle, and the simple, radial layout of the cell blocks feels bizarrely maze-like.
Solitary confinement and overcrowding played such a huge role in the architecture and evolution of the prison. ESP’s preserved state of abandonment makes the church-like halls feel suffocating, and Al Capone’s cell-turned-exhibit filled with period furniture, rugs, and odd “necessities” feels comical. From the old barber shop to the operating room, to the underground punishment cells, we couldn’t get enough.
If you haven’t been, you should go. And I promise we’ll share again if we go to one of the haunted Halloween attractions some October.