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Art | by Karol A Olson
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"Juxtaposition" by Matthew and Jonathan Stemler. The bits of plaster are suspended from the ceiling to create a plane that divides the space horizontally. There is writing on each of the fragments. Lighting was low, no tripod. I braced myself as best I could and held my breath.


Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA opened in 1829 as a new type of prison – one where prisoners were expected to reflect and change through complete isolation and labor. The facility was originally designed with seven cellblocks radiating from a central hub – think giant asterisk when viewed above. The exterior 30-foot walls and the towering administration building are heavy, gothic structures. The interior, more serene and church like with its arched corridors and many skylights.

More cellblocks were added as the years went by – shoehorned between the spokes of the original seven blocks. The final cellblock, death row, was added in 1956 although no prisoners were ever executed at the facility.

The facility closed its doors in 1970 and was abandoned to the elements and vandals until the mid 80s. Preservation efforts began in the early 90s. More information at


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Taken on April 26, 2008