What do Al Capone and Bruce Willis have in common? They both did time here at Eastern State Penitentiary. OK, Bruce wasn't an inmate, but he did spend time here while filming the movie 12 Monkeys. The first inmate was brought through these doors in 1829, and the prison was used until 1971. After it was closed, it became a target of vandals and housed a colony of stray cats. At one point, developers proposed re-purposing it into condominiums (high security of course). The preservationists won out and gradually began stabilizing the crumbling interior, removing trees that had been growing inside, and raising funds for continued improvements. You can do some time here yourself, wandering through the stark interior and learning about the fascinating history of this unique site. Hard hats are no longer required to do the tour! Be sure not to miss the special art installations that are on exhibit here year-round.
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Al Capone's Prison Cell
The ruins of Eastern State Penitentiary are surprisingly beautiful! The cell blocks are in varying states of disrepair, some freshly painted, some with peeling paint and exposed bricks, and some covered with a foot of dust and caved-in plaster ceilings. The restored synagogue and Al Capone's luxurious cell are fun to see; there is a free audio tour, and a number of cells display impressive artist installations relevant to prison life. Whether you're interested in history, architecture, film, art, or current politics, Eastern State Penitentiary definitely deserves exploration!
Since July 14th commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison and the official start of the French Revolution, it only seems fitting that the Francophiles in Philadelphia would host their celebrations at the Eastern State Penitentiary, a former prison that once held notable criminals like Al Capone and is now considered a U.S. national historic landmark (tours are offered).
Thousands of visitors flock yearly to the prison for one giant block party and reenactments of the storming of the Bastille by the Bearded Ladies, the city's cabaret troupe. The party will be held on July 13th and restaurants in the nearby Fairmount neighborhood will be offering special French menus to continue the momentum.
Expect baguettes, a barrage of Tastycakes and an appearance by Napoleon.