Eastern State Penitentiary Rock Climbing
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Landmark, the highest designation for a historic property under
Federal law. It is also a ruin, abandoned in 1971, and stands today
as an architectural shell. The historic site carries insurance for the
safety of the public while on the property, and for artists during the
installation process [but not for...injuries or damage to property
sustained by climbing the walls of the structure.]
-- Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site Guidelines for Art Proposals, 2019 Cycle
"It is both dangerous and unethical to climb ESP
without express permission to do so and extensive planning.
Visitors to the site should treat it in the same way they might
treat a delicate ecosystem in a protected nature reserve - be
gentle, respectful, and leave no trace."
-- A Climber's Guide to Eastern State Penitentiary, Alexander Rosenburg, 2019
Eastern State Penitentiary is a former American prison located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Today it is a National Historic Landmark. It sits at 2027 Fairmount Avenue between Corinthian Avenue and North 22nd Street in the Fairmount section of the city, and was operational as a prison from 1829 until 1971.
Eastern State’s walls are built primarily from a variety of stone “from East Falls (‘Wissahickon’ schist, the archetypal Philadelphia foundation material until the early twentieth century) and subsequently from the Leiper quarry on Crum Creek 180 (‘Media’ stone, a closely related material, still available)” (ESP Historic Structures Report). The material can be found all over the city, including the Henry Avenue Bridge (which was once bolted for sport climbing), and in natural formations in the Wissahickon woods.
Today, the stones making up ESP’s walls occasionally come loose, and the deep cracks that make up many of the climbs in this guide are prone to accumulating and pouring out dust from crumbling stones and mortar, especially after precipitation and dramatic fluctuations in temperature. This is in part because the stonework is set in mud mortar, which has been repointed on numerous occasions but continues to disintegrate from the inside. It is also because of the loose interior structure of the wall. Having been built with a relatively common method of construction for its time, the wall contains a giant pile of rubble, sandwiched between the solid interior and exterior faces of the wall. The loose material can shift and collect moisture when precipitation permeates the wall. When water enters the wall’s core and freezes, it can have a dramatic degenerative effect on the structure
All information for this post comes from "A Climber's Guide to Eastern State Penitentiary" (Alexander Rosenburg, 2019)
available to you.
Bus service to Eastern State Penitentiary is convenient to SEPTA bus routes 49, 48, 43, 33, 32, and 7. Use Google Maps for customized public
transit directions to the penitentiary.
Big Bus / Philadelphia Trolley Works
Both the Big Bus and Philadelphia Trolley Works vehicles stop directly in front of Eastern State. Show your ticket stub from these tours and save $1 on your ESP admission.
While ESP does not have its own parking lot, there is a neighboring parking lot that is reasonably priced. Parking costs generally range from $3.00 to $10.00 depending on the length of your stay. For exact pricing, please call Parkway Corporation at 267-765-3665.
Additionally, you can find parallel parking bordering the penitentiary. Eastern State is large enough that it occupies one full city block. Bordering Eastern State on the west (to the left if you are facing the entrance) is 22nd Street. On the Eastern State side of 22nd Street, parallel parking is free and unlimited. The same is true of Brown Street, which borders our back wall. Again, parking is free and unlimited only on the Eastern State side of the street. If you choose to park anywhere else in the neighborhood, exercise caution and read all signs.
Days w Precip