Eastern State

Penitentiary

The preserved ruins of Eastern State Penitentiary stand in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia. When it opened 1829, it represented a revolution in prison design with its seven long cellblocks radiating from a central surveillance rotunda. The facility operated under the influence of a Quaker philosophy of reform. Inmates were held in small individual cells, living in almost total solitary confinement. This was intended to promote an atmosphere of spiritual reflection. Long before ESP closed in 1970, conditions evolved into those of a more conventional prison, as overcrowding led to ultimately eight additional cellblocks crammed onto the site.