By Mark Abrams
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Eastern State Penitentiary historic site, in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia, is opening up two new sections of the former prison to the public for the first time this weekend.
Francis Dolan, Eastern State’s associate director for tour programs and site operations, says the exercise yard that was formerly used by Death Row inmates and the prison’s hospital section, featuring a former working operating room (top photo), are being opened for the first time during restoration work.
“We’re inviting folks to go into the operating room and see how that space transformed over the years, see how it was used, learn a little bit about the history of surgery and medicine at Eastern State,” Dolan tells KYW Newsradio. “And the space itself is incredible. There’s this huge, old operating light that hangs from the ceiling.”
The exercise yard — sandwiched among three cell blocks — is now littered with overgrown and felled trees, and bricks and concrete that have fallen away from one of the cellblocks.
Dolan says visitors will learn how the secure yard was used, and hear about the careful restoration efforts being undertaken in the newly opened section.