Designed by John Haviland and opened on October 25, 1829, Eastern State is considered to be the world’s first true penitentiary.
The word “penitentiary” derives from the word “penitence.” Eastern State’s revolutionary system of incarceration, dubbed the “Pennsylvania System” or Separate system, encouraged separate confinement (the warden was legally required to visit every inmate every day, and the overseers were mandated to see each inmate three times a day) as a form of rehabilitation. Eastern State’s radial floor plan and system of solitary confinement was the model for over 300 prisons worldwide.
The prison was closed in 1971. In 1988, the Eastern State Penitentiary Task Force successfully petitioned Mayor Wilson Goode to halt redevelopment. In 1994, Eastern State opened to the public for historic tours.