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Old May 12, 2005, 9:32 PM   #1
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Visited by the likes of Charles Dickens, and prison to criminals like Al Capone, the gothic Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, where the regime was based on rehabilitation, through solitary confinement, is a must-see.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site

Once the site of brutal solitary confinement, the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia is now an unmissable historic site.

Confinement

Charles Dickens, Alexis de Tocqueville and numerous other 19th century writers and intellectuals visited Eastern to comment on its radical 'Pennsylvania System' of confinement.

The system was based on Quaker belief in the rehabilitative power of isolation. After visiting the prison, Dickens wrote: "The system is rigid, strict and hopeless solitary confinement, and I believe it, in its effects, to be cruel and wrong....". The system only ended in Pennsylvania in 1913.

Inmates

The prison opened in 1829. Its first inmate was Charles William, serving two years for theft. The first woman inmate was received in 1831.

Amongst the famous inmates at Eastern State Penitentiary was gangster Al Capone, who spent eight months there in 1929-30.

The Buildings

The architects of Eastern State Penitentiary wanted their building filled with the "light of God." The building is lit by more than 1,000 skylights, accentuating the haunting, beautiful atmosphere.

The massive, gothic facade of the Penitentiary stands in stark contrast to the building's church-like interior. The penitentiary was built on farmland nearly two miles outside Philadelphia. Eastern State quickly became, at one point, the most expensive American building of its day, and the most famous prison in the world.

The exterior was designed to intimidate - implying a physical punishment. Eastern was in fact the world's first true penitentiary, a prison designed to encourage penance and genuine regret in criminals.

The city grew to surround the massive walls, and today the penitentiary stands five blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, tucked into a quiet Victorian neighbourhood.

Eastern State Penitentiary closed in 1970, and fell into disrepair, before being renovated by the City of Philadelphia and re-opening as a historic site in 1994.
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Old May 12, 2005, 9:34 PM   #2
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Eastern facade with the Philadelphia skyline. ( I need a UV filter)
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Old May 12, 2005, 9:35 PM   #3
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One of the long wings that radiate of the central rotunda
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Old May 13, 2005, 6:24 AM   #4
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Hi Red Dragon,

What a fascinating posting.....I really enjoyed getting the background to these pix.

Very interesting, both writing and pix!

Thanks. Caroline.
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Old May 16, 2005, 12:26 PM   #5
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Thanks! heres another
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Old May 18, 2005, 11:34 AM   #6
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What an incredible pic!

Caroline.
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