The historic landmark and museum, which was built in 1829 and held prisoners as late as 1971, is going to be focusing tours on love stories throughout the prison’s history.
(… And somewhere, the late comedian Henny Youngman is calling out from beyond the grave, “Prison? That’s not romance. That’s marriage!”)
The Fairmount Avenue relic is also offering a cheap two-for-one tour deal anytime from Feb. 11 through Feb. 14 – lending a whole new meaning to the phrase, “If I go to prison, I’m taking you there with me!”
For you see, love has often bloomed at what is considered the world’s first true penitentiary in the modern sense of that word. Wardens have met their wives there. Couples have stayed together while one was incarcerated. Inmates have fallen in love with each other.
For instance, back in in 1862, Elizabeth Velora Elwell – a 17 year old servant who went to jail for stealing mail and shoplifting – exchanged secret letters and held clandestine meetings in a cold cellar with fellow inmate Albert Green Jackson.
The prison is really proud of that story. But authorities also have a packet of Elwell’s letters on file, which means the lovers apparently got caught. And my guess is the warden back then didn’t get all weepy about it.
One last part of the prison’s Valentine’s Day celebration, by the way: They’re collecting posts on their Facebook wall about any love stories involving Eastern State.
Maybe you fell in love on a previous tour there, or maybe you were among of the last batch of prisoners and tunneled your way out from behind a dreamy poster of Raquel Welch. But whoever tells the best story wins a romantic dinner for two in the cell blocks. Bologna sandwiches, I’m guessing.