Once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, Eastern State Penitentiary with its sky-lit cells confined many of the United States' most notorious criminals, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and Al Capone. Today, the historic site stands in ruin, and groups have wandered the haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers for over two decades.
Just not Cellblock 3.
Also known as the Hospital Block, Cellblock 3 has captured visitors' imaginations since the penitentiary opened as a museum in 1994. The severe deterioration, however, made touring the hospital impossible.
A series of stabilization projects has finally made it possible for visitors to safely enter the long-abandoned medical wing, and Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is kicking off its 2017 season on Friday, May 5, with the first-ever public tours of Cellblock 3.
Groups could learn more about the prison hospital by viewing the penitentiary's operating room, laboratories, pharmacy, X-ray lab, hydrotherapy rooms, psychiatric department and solarium. Despite decades of abandonment and decay, a number of medical artifacts remain.
As of right now, access to Cellblock 3 is available to groups of fewer than 50 by request. If your groups want to see the hospital, staff recommend scheduling at least 90 minutes to experience the full 60-minute guided tour, as well as the 15- to 20-minute Hospital Hands-On History tour afterward.
For more information, visit www.easternstate.org.
Photo courtesy of John Van Horn.