Located in Philadelphia, PA is the world’s first true penitentiary. The gates at Eastern State Penitentiary opened in 1829 and closed in 1971. Now days the old gothic-style fortress is a National Historic Landmark that operates as a year round museum.
During its golden age, Eastern State was a host to a variety of horse thieves, pickpockets and maximum security prisoners. One of the most notable inmates was Al “Scarface” Capone. The Chicago mob boss spent 8 months in Eastern State from 1929 to 1930. The penitentiary was Capone’s first prison stop. His old cell has been restored to its former glory, with fine furniture, oriental rugs and a cabinet radio, for visitors to see.
Another notable prisoner is Pep “the cat murdering dog.” On August 12, 1924, Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot sentenced a dog to a life sentence in Eastern State for allegedly murdering his wife’s prized cat. Pep was even given a prison number, C-2559, and you can see his mugshot when you visit.
In the summer visitors can take the Voices of Eastern State audio tour narrated by Steve Buscemi that features past prison guards, wardens, and prisoners. The tour takes you through the cell blocks, solitary punishment cells, and even Death Row.
The penitentiary is also home to several art installations from videos about living in the prison to portraits of those murdered by prisoners to designs made solely with dust collected at the prison.
Eastern State Penitentiary is also a hotspot for photographers. Everything from major movies such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to TV shows (Rachael Ray) and still photography (Sting, cover of his All This Time album) have been shot there. So next time you’re in Philly head over to Eastern State Penitentiary for a truly unforgettable experience.