...nice place to visit but i wouldn't want to have lived there...
January 26, 2017 10:47 PM   Subscribe

As the real estate agent would put it, "A big house with a yard."
posted by bryon at 11:11 PM on January 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

I first read 2027 as a year, and thought "Oh crap, Streetview can see into the future now?"
posted by wittgenstein at 2:36 AM on January 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

That entrance way with the numbered arches reminds me of nothing so much as this book (which I recommend, if you're into that sort of thing.)
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 2:47 AM on January 27, 2017

I don't get the all hype over ESP. I used to be able to see it from my kitchen window and it's not a pretty sight. Sure it's historic building, but when you think about all the misery that took place within those walls, who'd want to go there? What's the point of opening it up? I don't see this as a teaching tool for prison reform (which imo, we need very badly).

Old prisons are not fun places. That place in particular just creeps me out. I know that my opinion won't be popular, esp with ESP boosters, but that's how I feel.
posted by james33 at 3:26 AM on January 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's a panopticon, although not quite of the sort Bentham envisioned.
posted by pipeski at 3:28 AM on January 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I don't see this as a teaching tool for prison reform (which imo, we need very badly).

It may have changed in the last year or so, but when I visited, they had devoted one of the yards to a stark, striking exhibit on US imprisonment rates over time and as compared to the rest of the world, and it seemed to be one of their major interpretive priorities.

The silly haunted house every year doesn't really help their case, though.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 3:47 AM on January 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's an excellent reminder of how good intentions harnessed to faulty premises create horror.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:54 AM on January 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

> I don't see this as a teaching tool for prison reform (which imo, we need very badly).

It's a teaching tool for prison reform.

I would suggest going inside and partaking of some of their excellent programming.
posted by desuetude at 6:49 AM on January 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

This is fascinating and chilling.

I have a weird obsession with prisons. They are terrible, extreme places and I can't imagine any human being surviving one, especially older ones like this that are more dank dungeons compared to the sterile, modern prisons.
posted by bondcliff at 6:51 AM on January 27, 2017

Cool stonework.
posted by kozad at 7:19 AM on January 27, 2017

When I was first moving to Philadelphia, I was in the position of trying to rent an apartment sight unseen in a city I had never been to from 700km away. I had found a place that seemed really nice, but then I ended up backing out when I noticed on google maps that it was directly across the road from a Penintentiary. The idea just seemed too depressing to me.

Of course, once I was actually living in the city I realized my mistake. ESP is beautiful, and being right across the road from it would be very lovely.

And james33, I actually do think that it's a good tool for teaching prison reform. I've taken the tour several times and I think they do a pretty good job of showing how fucked up the ideas behind it were and how weird it is that many of those ideas are still in use today (though in slightly less extreme versions).
posted by 256 at 7:20 AM on January 27, 2017

When I went there in late October, I was surprised by the large gargoyles above the entrance. Then the staff told my friends and me that they were foam figures set up specifically for Halloween and that ended up making a ton more sense.
posted by I-baLL at 7:33 AM on January 27, 2017

Super weird, a Metafilter post I’m usually qualified to comment on.

My wife is the production manager for Terror Behind The Walls and we are close friends with pretty much the entire ESP and TBTW staff. We were married at Eastern State back in April 2014 (that's us in the picture!).

Prison reform is a common thread throughout most of their exhibits. The Big Graph and Prisons Today specifically deal with modern day prison issues. Last year we took my family, including my eight year old nephew, to the opening reception for Prisons Today. He had a ton of great questions after going through the exhibit. It was really something.

None of that would be possible without Terror Behind The Walls. Ticket sales for TBTW provide over half of the operating budget for ESP so they can continue to do public outreach and building / artifact preservation efforts. No one is more aware of the tragic history of the prison than the TBTW staff and they go to great lengths to separate that history from the haunted house. You won’t see a single actor wearing an “Eastern State Penitentiary” badge, there are no depictions of prison violence or violence against women, the ghost of Al Capone won’t tap you on the shoulder, and so on. It’s a tough balancing act and they know it.

If you’re in the area and haven’t been there, please check it out. If you haven’t been in a few years, go again. There’s a lot of new stuff to see.
posted by Diskeater at 7:57 AM on January 27, 2017 [9 favorites]

I just want to add that TBTW is a GREAT haunted house and you should definitely check it out. It doesn't feel in the least bit exploitative of the terrible reality of prisons (and, having spent a little time on the wrong side of the bars myself earlier in life, this was something I was wary of).

But if you have ONLY been to ESP for the haunted house, you definitely owe it to yourself to go back for their regular tour at another time in the year.
posted by 256 at 8:11 AM on January 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you're interested in seeing Al Capone's cell:
-Rotate your POV till you see porthole 9/8 (Exit).
-Click 5 times - that will put you into a large room with a couple of benches in front of you.
-Rotate to your right, about 5 o'clock. You'll see a large placard to the right of his cell door.

I love that Philly makes a big deal out of Eastern State. The tour includes oral histories from inmates and guards (and at least one guard who later became an inmate). It's really engaging and a rare opportunity for those who've never been incarcerated to learn what prison is like.

More awful than I ever imagined.
posted by sixpack at 8:51 AM on January 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Diskeater, that's fascinating! I have actually done Terror Behind the Walls, but it was once, almost a decade ago, and I suuuuuuuper dislike haunted houses, so didn't notice it had all non-prison content. I guess it's like ballet companies having to do the Nutcracker every year to stay in the black. I've done normal day visits in the off-season a few times since and strongly prefer them. My friends who took me to the Halloween event DO like haunted houses, and thought that one was the best they'd ever done.

And yes, the normal tour is amazing, the guided experiences throughout the day on specific topics are really great, and ALSO the audio tour is narrated by Steve Buscemi, with additional audio segments from former prisoners, since it was open and being used until ridiculously recently.

If anyone is ever in Philadelphia you should really try and stop by. If you are interested in prison reform, history, or architecture, you need to visit.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 10:08 AM on January 27, 2017

Oh yay! I'm doing research on a guy who was an inmate there in the 20s (along with many other US prisons), so this is actually a timely and useful source for me. Thanks!
posted by mudpuppie at 3:52 PM on January 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Going to Eastern State Penitentiary and taking the audio tour taught me a huge amount about the history of prisons and historical theories about how prison design might influence rehabilitation. It's an important museum and, as others have said, I'm glad Philly makes a big deal out of it, because it really is worth going to. It's not a fun thing to do, but it's a very educational and eye-opening experience.
posted by jessypie at 5:23 PM on January 27, 2017

I lived in that area Philadelphia in the 70s when it was still open and Fairmount Avenue was a tough stretch with bail bondsmen etc. Now (I live in the area again) it's a vibrant restaurant-filled, friendly residential area, and the prison, though incredibly dilapidated, is a big part of the renaissance. If you go for a tour when the haunted house isn't on, it's pretty eye-opening.
posted by Peach at 9:07 AM on January 28, 2017

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