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Eastern State Penitentiary

Opened in 1829 as part of a controversial movement to change the behavior of inmates through "confinement in solitude with labor," Eastern State Penitentiary quickly became one of the most expensive and most copied buildings in the young United States. It is estimated that more than 300 prisons worldwide are based on the Penitentiary's "hub and spoke", or radial floor plan.

The common jails of that time confined large groups of prisoners in barracks. Eastern State's design was inspired by Quaker leaders in Pennsylvania who believed that crime is the result of one's environment, and that solitude will make the criminal regretful and penitent (hence the new word, Penitentiary). In 1842 popular English novelist Charles Dickens visited the United States and toured Eastern State Penitentiary during his travels. He later wrote of it, "The System is rigid, strict and hopeless solitary confinement, and I believe it, in its effects, to be cruel and wrong...." Today many feel holding prisoners for extended periods in solitude is cruel and inhumane.

Some of America's most notorious criminals were held in the Penitentiary's vaulted, sky-lit cells, including the famous Chicago gangster Al Capone. After 142 years of consecutive use, Eastern State Penitentiary was completely abandoned in 1971. Surrounded by massive stone walls, much still stands in urban decay, a cluster of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers.
Crumbling Cellblock
Crumbling Cellblock
Crumbling Prison Cell
Crumbling Prison Cell
Crumbling Prison Cell
Crumbling Prison Cell
Crumbling Prison Cell
Crumbling Prison Cell
Barber's Chair
Barber's Chair
Hospital Ward
Hospital Ward
Prison Cell Door
Prison Cell Door
Crumbling Prison Cell
Crumbling Prison Cell
Crumbling Prison Cell
Crumbling Prison Cell
Crumbling Prison Cell
Crumbling Prison Cell
Barber's Chair
Barber's Chair
Crumbling Cellblock
Crumbling Cellblock
Prison Cell Door
Prison Cell Door
Crumbling Prison Cell
Crumbling Prison Cell
Abandoned Office
Abandoned Office
Crumbling Prison Cell
Crumbling Prison Cell
Al Capone's Cell
Al Capone's Cell
Crumbling Prison Cell
Crumbling Prison Cell
Prison Cell Door
Prison Cell Door