The Big House
Trip Start Feb 15, 2010
77Trip End Feb 14, 2011
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Where I stayed
Included in the price of admission was an audio guide that was narrated by Actor/Director Steve Buscemi who had previously visited the penitentiary when scouting locations for a movie. Most people will probably remember Mr. Buscemi best from his roles as the creepy pedophile in Con Air or the crazy guy in Armageddon. Having a well-liked celebrity voice on the audio tour did lend something unique to it.
Eastern State Penitentiary was the first penitentiary ever built, and it operated from 1829-1971
The original design of the prison didn't last long because of the number of people who felt it was unnecessarily cruel to put every prisoner in solitary confinement. Through the years the penitentiary was modified and redesigned in an attempt to keep up with its growing population of prisoners and changing mentalities of how to house them. Additional cell blocks were added and many were renovated to include second levels. The penitentiary was no stranger to tourism, though
After finishing the audio tour, I went to meet up with a guide who was conducting a short presentation focusing on the escape attempts that were made from the penitentiary. There were actually quite a few throughout the years, and one man managed to escape twice using the exact same escape route! One created a ladder that was made of multiple pieces which could be quickly assembled, but were disguised to look like parts of normal cell furniture. Another dug a 97 foot tunnel that took him over a year to dig. It was well-designed with support beams and had electric lights throughout its length, and it is still intact today. Twelve prisoners escaped through his tunnel, but all were eventually recaptured.
My last stop for the day was to find a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. After searching a few internet sites for recommendations, I made my way to one of the locations of Jim's Steaks. It was a very small and quaint neighborhood sandwich shop with barely enough room for two people to walk past each other, but the basic procedure for all of the sandwich shops is the same. Hop in the line and make sure you know what you want before you get to the grill. An order generally consists of two words: what kind of cheese you want and "with" or "without" onions. There are a couple of other items on the menu, but there probably wouldn't have to be. I got a "swiss, with", and I was not disappointed in the least. Jim's lived up to its popularity.