Blocks We Love: 700 Block of Corinthian Avenue

Who thinks living across from a prison is an asset? We do, when that prison is historic Eastern State Penitentiary! Now a historic landmark, museum, and gothic revival wonder, Eastern State makes for a mighty fine neighbor for the 700 block of Corinthian Avenue.

 

Nestled in the heart of the charming Fairmount neighborhood, Corinthian Avenue is one of four streets that ring the Penitentiary. What sets this street apart from the others on the historic prison’s periphery is the lush Corinthian Gardens that serves as a buffer between the soaring stone wall of Eastern State and the street below.

 

Corinthian Gardens was established about a year ago through the work of volunteers and funds from the City, Friends of Eastern State, and additional donors. The green space consists of individual community garden plots, grassy swaths of land and picnic benches.

 

On the eastern side of the 700 block of Corinthian Avenue, mature street trees mirror the billowing greenery of the Gardens. The attractive and sizable three-story townhomes bear a colorful assortment of cornices that playfully contrast with the gray stone wall of the prison.

 

The colorful cornices of Corinthian Avenue (left), Eastern State Penitentiary wall and Corinthian Gardens (right)

 

That wall and the prison within predate the residential neighborhood that encircles them. The construction of Eastern State Penitentiary began in 1822 in what was then a suburb of Philadelphia. In the decades that followed the formerly isolated prison became surrounded by a vibrant neighborhood of factories and factory-worker housing.

 

While the prison closed in 1971 and the factories are long gone, the vibrancy of the neighborhood remains. Eastern State’s expanded museum programming keeps the site contemporary, and includes the recently launched exhibit The Big Graph as well as a tour of the kitchen wing, featuring an old prison menu that is sure to delight foodies and history buffs alike.

 

The 700 block of Corinthian Avenue appears to have it all: beauty and greenery from Corinthian Gardens, immediate proximity to the shops and restaurants of Fairmount Avenue, the history and splendor of Eastern State, and extra parking too!

 

For more information about Corinthian Gardens and its volunteer opportunities, click here.