If you're interested in checking out what mob boss Al Capone's prison cell looked like, you should head to Philadelphia. The prison, Eastern State Penitentiary, closed in 1971 and is now a museum, and it has unveiled a newly-restored exhibit that shows the cell as it likely appeared from 1929 to 1930 when Capone was incarcerated for nine months there.
The gangster served the sentence for carrying a concealed, unlicensed .38 caliber revolver. While the previous version of the cell on display was portrayed as being plusher, it has now been re-imagined to more accurately reflect what it was likely to have been like at that time, according to the Associated Press.
The decor for the original exhibit was inspired by a 1929 newspaper article, in which reference was made to “tasteful paintings,” “the glow of a desk lamp which stood on a polished desk” and the “strains of a waltz … emitted by a powerful cabinet radio receiver of handsome design and fine finish.”
Staff at the historic prison site conducted research that pointed towards Capone's cell being more spartan and akin to the cells of other inmates. They spent four months redesigning the cell to better reflect what it looked like, and it now features less opulent furniture. A bed has been added for Capone’s reported roommate, Bill Coleman, and it features a single dresser that they would have shared, a prison-made rag rug and a vase of gladiolus.
Initial preservation efforts started in January 2019, and after removing the top layer of plaster, conservators uncovered more than 20 layers of paint, including evidence of many decorative and colorful paint schemes over time. Ultimately, the historic site’s team of conservators and interpreters felt that the rich history of artistry uncovered in this cell was too important to cover up, so now the Al Capone’s Cell exhibit includes two cells. The second cell leaves the evidence of these paint schemes exposed.
All artist installations and exhibits, including Al Capone’s Cell, are included with standard admission, and tickets are available online here.