The Operating Room ~ Cellblock 3
Eastern State Penitentiary
Completed in 1910, the sterile Operating Room provided a vastly improved surgical environment over the earlier spaces used – an inmate’s individual cell.
The Operating Room, converted from two single cells and three exercise yards, was part of a larger renovation campaign turning the entire cellblock into a complete state-of-the-art hospital.
In addition to the Operating Room, Cellblock 3 gained laboratories, quarantine housing and recovery wards.
By 1917, the entire block was devoted to medical care.
There were over 100 surgeries a year in the hospital by 1920, up from just a handful in the first years of the 20th century.
A variety of surgeries were performed: amputations, appendectomies, circumcisions, hernia repairs, dental and eye-related procedures, and more.
Al Capone had his tonsils removed in September 1929.
In the 1940s, Eastern State launched a “skin bank” so inmates could donate skin to burn victims, particularly children and servicemen affected by World War II.
By the 1950s and 60s, Eastern State’s medical wing had become an unusually well equipped and sophisticated prison hospital. Inmates from other facilities with challenging medical conditions were often transferred to the penitentiary for treatment.
In a typical week the operating room might be used for heart surgery, joint repair, emergency trauma, and plastic surgery.
The Medical Director reported 226 procedures in 1964.
This room was almost pitch black when we were inside.
It was just dumb luck that I got the overhead surgical light in focus!
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