Eastern State Penitentiary: A Class about the Past Speaks to the Present and the Future

Built as an embodiment of the ideals of prison reformers, the Eastern State Penitentiary had running water and central heating before the White House, and housed the first synagogue built in an American prison.

1 minute read

June 13, 2019, 11:00 AM PDT

By dlang


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock

When Sarah Lerner showed up at the Eastern State Penitentiary on a dark, cold January morning for the first day of David Brownlee’s class about the historic prison-turned-museum in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood, she wasn’t signed up for the class, or even planning on taking it.

“I just tagged along with friends to check it out,” says Lerner, a first year graduate student in historic preservation. “But it was so immersive from the second I got there. I was hooked.”

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