|The Preservation Alliance's Sixteenth Annual Preservation Achievement Awards
The Preservation Alliance held their sixteenth annual awards luncheon on May 11, 2009. We are delighted that Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc. was presented with The Alliance's Board of Directors Award for Exceptional Stewardship of Historic Properties and A Grand Jury Award for the Alfred W. Fleisher Memorial Synagogue. Sam Harris and Jessica Senker, along with Sally Elk, director of Eastern State Historic Site, Inc., attended the luncheon. Below is an excerpt from the Preservation Alliance's Awards Luncheon Program:
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc. has demonstrated exceptional stewardship in the maintenance, restoration, and interpretation of one of Philadelphia's most challenging historic sites.
After it opened in 1836, John Haviland's design for a prison based on the concept of solitary confinement was copied for more than 500 penal institutions worldwide. However, by 1988 the massive prison was empty and threatened with demolition. An ad hoc group of scholars, preservationists and neighbors, along with representatives of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, a sponsor of the original prison, formed a task force to try to preserve the Penitentiary. Planning studies were undertaken and a major exhibit held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, leading to the start of nighttime Halloween tours in 1991 and seasonal tours in 1994. The success of these effects led to the formation of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc. in 1998 and the establishment of the permanent preservation and interpretation program.
Recognizing that full restoration of the prison was an impossible goal, Eastern State has maintained and interpreted the prison as a "preserved ruin," an approach that lends much to its popular appeal. Individual cells and special rooms have been restored while others remain in a state of decay. Into these areas Eastern State has introduced imaginative interpretative exhibits that draw attention to contemporary issues of corrections and justice.
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc. now draws 250,000 annual visitors to the prison. And in another major accomplishment, in 2008 the organization was successfully in having the National Park Service agree to nominate the Penitentiary as a World Heritage Site during the next 10 years.
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