Historic Prison Structure Transforms a Neighborhood
Eastern State Penitentiary is the most historic prison in the United States and is designated as a National Historic Landmark. It opened in 1829 as a new model for rehabilitating criminals through solitary detention. By the time it was closed in 1971, Eastern State Penitentiary had become a dreadful place in which our most dangerous criminals were locked away. Much of the site remains in ruinous condition, a fitting reminder of the failure of this experiment.
Our master plan positions Eastern State Penitentiary as a leader in building conservation, historical interpretation, and in contemporary discussion of crime and punishment. It balances the need for ongoing stabilization and conservation of the historic buildings and grounds while accommodating support facilities for 250,000 annual visitors. We worked with Interpretive Solutions to produce a new interpretive plan that identifies the key aspects of the site’s historical and contemporary significance, and positions six interpretive themes that guide educational efforts. Our comprehensive preservation plan identifies and prioritizes repairs to stabilize the ruins and ensure safety for staff and visitors.
We are now working to merge the recommendations of the master plan with a strategic planning initiative that will address opportunities and challenges for the institution over a 20-year period. The goal for this project is integrating management, economic, programming, and architectural measures to ensure long-term viability for the organization and stewardship for the extremely significant legacy buildings, stories, and heritage.
Structural Engineer: Keast & Hood; MEP Engineer: Bruce E. Brooks & Associates; Interpretive Planner: Interpretive Solutions
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, Reproduction Number (HABS PA, 51-PHILA, 354-168, 354-145)
Eastern State Penitentiary stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers.