Sometimes, when you’ve lived somewhere for a long time, you forget to take advantage of the things tourists do every day. In my quest to explore more Philly neighborhood (and because of my current obsession with La Calaca Feliz), I recently headed up to Fairmount to spend the day with my parents. After an obviously delicious brunch, we decided to venture down the block to that big, stone fortress looking building – oh yeah, that’s a prison!
Eastern State Penitentiary (2027 Fairmount Avenue), opened from 1829 to 1971 (can you believe that?), is pretty much an amazing piece of history sitting right in the middle of our pretty city. My parents & I visited on a Sunday around 2:00 pm and walked right in to get our tickets. We picked up a set of headphones and made out way outside to start “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour, narrated by Steve Buscemi, naturally.
Behind the huge walls that surround ESP, the shape of the prison was actually pretty surprising to me. Jutting out from a central guard tower are 12 cell blocks, or long hallways lined with abandoned prison cells.
Different parts of ESP have been revitalized to look just like they during the early years of the prison.
Despite it being broad daylight when we visited, being inside the prison was definitely a little spooky. I am suddenly second guessing my decision to come back for Terror Behind the Walls.
While the audio tour does not take you down each cell block, you are free to go at your own pace, take a detour down a different aisle, and resume when you’re ready.
This was originally one of my favorite finds during one of our “detours.” However it quickly became my most scary find when, as I was reading up on Pep, his sign started moving back & forth “from the wind” and scraping against the wall behind it. This noise just so happened to sound exactly like a dog scratching, and kind of freaked me out. Sometimes I think my brain works too hard for my own good.
The tour takes you for a peek inside Al Capone’s cell at ESP. The guards seemed to be OK with hooking him up and making his stay in Philly pretty comfortable!
In addition to the narration from Steve Buscemi, the audio tour featured lots of interviews with guards and prisoners alike who lived through ESP.
At the end of the tour, you got a visual of the men who were interviewed. Matthew Epps happened to be our favorite, as he took one for the team and experienced prison as both a guard AND a prisoner.
After the tour, we walked around the grounds. While our visit lasted about two hours, there is so much to do & see inside ESP, you could definitely spend a lot longer there. They even offer same day re-entry if you need a lunch break!
I really enjoyed my visit to Eastern State Penitentiary and would definitely recommend it to any of my Philly ladies looking to get to know our city a little bit better. Tickets are $14 per adult and the prison is open every day from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
When is the last time you visited a Philly “tourist” spot? What did you think of it?