I could spend a long time talking about the experience, or I could just show you all a (small) sampling of the photos I took. Oh, if only I'd had my tripod (and my macro lens and another day)!
The outside of the Penitentiary:
The halls of the Penitentiary:
Cell block 5 (still unsafe, so not open to the public):
A recreation of a prisoner's cell:
Peering through the doors into the ruins of the cells:
A skylight in one of the cells. In the early days of the prison, prisoners were kept in solitary confinement for the duration of their stay, so this was one of their few means of contact with the outside world. (Intended for contact with God only, of course.)
The view from inside a cell. (Strangely creepy and disconcerting, I must admit.)
The prison kitchen:
One of the religious murals painted in the chaplain's office by one of the prisoners:
The prison barbershop:
A recreation of Al Capone's cell. (A smidge nicer than the others.)
The hospital ward:
I want to go back already. I actually (sacrilege of all sacrilege) enjoyed it more than the Mutter Museum. Which I loved. My only complaint was that I went over lunch time and so had to leave earlier than intended due to hypoglycemia (shaking, nauseated, almost passing out hypoglycemia), but I can't blame the museum for something that is my own stupid fault. Note to self: granola bars.
If you live in Philadelphia or plan to visit it (which I would wholeheartedly endorse), then you should really go see this place. Not only is it a remarkable facility, but the charitable organization that runs it has done an excellent job of turning it into a site for visitors. The main audio tour, which takes you through ten stops describing the history of the prison and some aspects of life in the prison, is informative without being long and tedious. And if you're interested in learning more, there are many additional audio tour stops throughout the prison where you can hear about specific topics (e.g. the hospital, women in the prison, sexuality in prison, etc.) that may be of personal interest. There are even some art exhibits on issues such as Guantanimo Bay and transgendered inmates incorporated into the site.
Fabulous. Well done Eastern State Penitentiary. I hope to be back someday. (Preferably when the medical ward is fully restored and open.)