Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site Opens Long-Abandoned Medical Wing to the Public
March 27, 2017
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site kicks off its 2017 season on Friday, May 5 with the first-ever public tours of Cellblock 3, also called the Hospital Block. Visitors have long wished to explore this space, but its severe deterioration has made touring the hospital impossible – until now.
Cellblock 3 has captivated visitors’ imaginations since the penitentiary opened as a museum more than 20 years ago. Opportunities to step past the head gate, ornamented with its iconic red cross, have been rare. The few hardhat tours offered over the years filled to capacity, affirming visitors’ strong interest in seeing this eerie and fascinating space. A series of stabilization projects has finally made it possible for visitors to safely enter the long-abandoned medical wing.
Beginning May 5, 15-minute guided tours will be offered several times a day. Visitors will explore the corridor of Cellblock 3 and learn more about this unusually well equipped prison hospital. They will see Eastern State’s operating room, laboratories, pharmacy, X-ray lab, hydrotherapy rooms, psychiatric department, and a solarium for treating tuberculosis patients. A number of medical artifacts remain in place, despite decades of abandonment and decay.
Hospital Block tours are included with standard admission. Regular daytime programs, including “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour, guided Hands-On History tours, history exhibits, and artist installations, are also included with admission. Tickets are available online at www.EasternState.org, or at the door subject to availability.
About Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site:
Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world's first true "penitentiary," a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America's most notorious criminals, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and Al Capone.
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is located at 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue, just five blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The penitentiary is open seven days a week, year round. When purchasing online, admission is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $10 for students and children ages 7-12. When purchasing at the door, admission is $16, $14, and $12, respectively. (Not recommended for children under the age of seven.) Admission includes “The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; Hands-On History interactive experiences; history exhibits; and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations.
For more information and schedules, the public should call (215) 236-3300 or visit www.EasternState.org.
The Cellblock 3 corridor preservation was supported in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.