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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day!

To celebrate, our Photography Club took a road trip to Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania. This facility was opened in 1829 and closed in 1971. It is definitely showing its age.

Before we got there, we had a little meeting with the police of our own. While we were stopped at a red light, a driver behind us took a little too long to hit the brakes and hit us. I wasn't driving, my friend's husband was. We were all wearing our seat belts so no one was hurt. It helped that we were in a mini-van. Two of my friends complained of sore necks, but decided against going to the hospital especially when the police said they would be outfitted with a neck collar and board.

One simple fender bender brought a fire engine, two marked and one unmarked police car. After having our ID's and licenses checked for any outstanding parking tickets or warrants, we were sent on our way.

It was a very interesting visit. As you can imagine, the facility was in terrible shape since it has been unused for almost 40 years. It was a strange feeling, claustrophic at times. The cells were very small. Originally, they only opened to a small exercise area with no contact with any other inmates.

Each cell block was long with cells on either side. Naturally, when this facility was built in 1829 there was no electricity, so there was a small window in the ceiling for light and air. It was very hot in there.

We saw several cells that had been invaded by tree roots.

They had an Honor Roll plaque on the wall that listed the convicts who had served and died in the World War. They didn't say which war, I'd guess WWI. The odd thing about this plaque, and I don't think it's noticeable in the picture, is that there are no names listed, only numbers.

One of the highlights of the tour was Al Capone's cell. He, somehow, managed to have all the comforts of home. It has been said that, if nothing else, he was a very generous man. I guess that's why he had such plush quarters while there.

It's a very impressive building, not unlike a castle. I expected to see a moat, although by the end of the day there may have been. It rained, a lot, as we were leaving.

No visit to a penitentiary would be complete without a picture of the guard tower.

As we were leaving we saw this building. From a distance I thought it was a greenhouse, but on closer inspection I saw the designs in the glass. My guess is that they were etched. What do you think?


Before we went to lunch, I saw this clearing in the sky. Unfortunately, it didn't last since we had a lot of very heavy rain on the return trip.

It's a very interesting facility and I'm glad I had the freedom to leave. There was an audio tour which was a little frightening at times. They included sounds of gates closing and inmates walking. The clanging gates were very eerie.

Before leaving, we stopped for lunch. I had my first Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. It was very good. We ate in a converted firehouse across from the State Pen.

1 comment:

HMK said...

what a great story.
I can feel what it must have been like.
I was especially affected by the plaque with only numbers.
The tree roots are dramatic signs of age.
How long dark & lonely the corridors are.