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Cell Block 3: the Hospital Wing

May 31, 2017

Much more than Al Capone’s home for 8 months, Eastern State Penitentiary and Cellblock 3 were once teacher’s pet in the world of penitentiary design. This stoic building continues to reign as one of the most eye catching portions of Fairmount. Warning, some spoilers ahead!  When it comes to places I love, it's hard to keep my lips zipped (or fingers from typing). 

Walls break down, roofs fall in, plants come in. Either time has its way and we help it along by knocking them into the ground or save some pieces of our past before there is nothing left. I love places like ESP because of the ability for everyone to see what time does to our creations after we stop caring about them and what can be done to preserve it. The Hands-On History tour is a great example of the demand that exists for these glimpses into our city’s history.

 
 “This spot will have a beneficial effect not only upon health, but morals, for it will lead them to a familiarity with those pure and natural objects which are calculated to renew the connection of fallen man with his creator.”  
Benjamin Rush 

We gathered for the tour between Tuberculosis Alley and Cellblock 3 - where inmates afflicted with the consumption where placed to air out and catch some Vitamin D. Today the stone and concrete wing lives on with its white and green peeling paint, cracked glass solariums, and tall arched hallway. “Hydrotherapy”, “Psychotherapy”, “X-Rays”. The words remain mostly legible on the heavy wooden doors, revealing their purposes to us more than 40 years after the closing of the prison. Once considered a shining example for medical facilities, prisons would send their inmates to ESP for care.  

Gaining access to the hospital wing breathes fresh life into the history of the world’s first penitentiary and is absolutely a must see.

Philed by Kim Iburg

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The Water Works behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by Erin DiSerafino.