The State Penitentiary, for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania


This print is a bird's eye view of the prison built in 1823–36 at 2101–99 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, after the designs of John Haviland. It shows the prison designed with radial corridors, courtyards, and a Gothic-style entranceway and outer wall. It was also known as Cherry Hill State Prison and was one of the largest and most expensive structures of its day. It was most unusual in having flush toilets and heating in the cells. A horse-drawn wagon is visible within, and another, probably a paddy wagon, arrives in front of the prison complex. Men on horseback, possibly guards, accompany the arriving wagon and a few pedestrians walk nearby in the street and on the sidewalk. A cityscape, including Girard College, is visible in the background. The print was copyrighted by Richard Vaux, president of the prison’s Board of Inspectors and the author of a brief sketch of the origin and history of the state penitentiary written for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 1872. Samuel Cowperthwaite, a prison convict, created this lithograph in about 1855.

Last updated: April 22, 2013