Al Capone's cell - recreated
The site was listed as a place to check out, and in my thinking, a great guy stop for Will and The Man while in Philadelphia. But it really has much more to it.
The original mission of this penitentiary, the first in the world, was for penitence - not necessarily punishment. The thought of the organizers was, if a person had time alone to evaluate their life, search their souls, they would return to society free of the desire to steal, kill, ummm, sell their goods so to speak, imbibe and so forth. Each cell had a small courtyard. Offenders were taken into their cell from an outside entrance, into the courtyard and into their cell - heads covered with a mask. During their two 30 minute breaks during the day, the had to wear the head cover. Just saying that sounds harsh, unnecessary, but to the founders of this system, it was a way to respect the individuals, a hope that when they returned to society, no other prisoners would recognize another, a clean start I suppose.
Each cell had a skylight that was called the "eye of God"
Over the years, after much complaint (world wide) criminals did not spend their entire incarceration in silence and solitude, that changed, and harden criminals became much more involved in each other's space and lives, as it were.
While that was interesting, more so was what I saw in the now, in the present.
(notice the blue sign?)
Much of the peeling and flaking of walls was actually caused by water damage - not time. The structure itself is quite solid.
In an atrium area I kinda got tickled. A lady walked over to the gate to the wing, squatted to take a close up shot, then I noticed someone behind her...
See the figure further back - she was applying mascara here, but a few minutes earlier I had noticed her with a curling iron working on her hair. Of course I had to take this picture - you have architecture, photography and PRIMPING...
As we walked down the wings I noticed TV sets in one cell playing over and over prison scenes from movies over the past 20 years.
Another had a large screen with two cameras playing the same vintage clips of scenes outside the prison gates, coming together in the middle, creating rather interesting scenes.
Pictures on easels. Stone cats to represent the cat population there too.
Like I noticed in other parts of Philadelphia - art is all around. Even in a prison... There were many displays, and some that were not actual, on purpose displays, like what I noticed here
It might have been placed there on purpose, but it was not an artist's work, but I liked the one way sign lying there pointing towards the light shining in through the "eye of God" window.
One artist had decorated the windows of the old greenhouse.
Throughout the site we would notice signs, like street signs hanging.
In the distance, to the left - there is a blue sign
We finally noticed a plaque about the signs. Each sign was a location of a tragedy - Charles Manson, Antietam, Chernobyl, and many others.
Kinda creepy, but this display is a part of a type of tourism - Dark Tourism. I had never heard of it, but then as I was walking through this prison, I suppose I am a part of it. Dark Tourism is the act of travel to sites that have real or recreated death, suffering or the macabre as their main theme. Sub genres include Poverty Tourism, Grief Tourism, Suicide Tourism, Assassination Tourism, and Prison Tourism.
I suppose taking my kids to the Habitat for Humanity Museum - where there are displays of poverty in other countries - would fall under the Poverty Tourism? hmmmm and kinda creepy - have you been a part of dark tourism and did not know it? Visited any battlefield? Cemeteries? I thought that was all just historical - who knew...
Oh, at any given time, there were no more than 200 detainees. The day before we toured here, we toured the New Jersey Battleship. While the cells may seem small at Eastern State Penn, here is a comparison:
The battleship housed 1500 to as many as 2100 men at any given time - three level bunks a few feet from another? Makes Al Capone's cell look like a mansion.
So this tour was interesting - there was history, there was art, there was thought provoking tidbits - and oh, there were models. As we entered from the outside of one wing, there was a flash of light, when we looked down the wing there was a beautiful young lady, posing in her high heels, flowing dress and perfect hair against a backdrop of age and stories. And an irritated photographer we could hear say," I can't take any picture until that man moves down there." That man being my husband - I was apparently not in the way. Smile.
That lady fixing her eyes? Must have been there for the shoot too!