History of 11th and Passyunk and the Moyamensing Prison

The site of the Acme shopping center at 11th and Passyunk has some pretty interesting history.

Front-Elevation-Philadelphia-County-Prison-Debtors-Wing-Reed-Street-Passyunk-AvenueThe location was once the home of the Moyamensing Prison, which housed many criminals, including noteworthy inmates like Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Bukowski and America’s first serial killer, H.H. Holmes.

While the location has been the home to a shopping center for 36 years now, there’s a lot more history to the spot. The prison was demolished in the 1960s, but opened all the way back in the 1830s.

Hidden City wrote an article with some more detailed history of the location.

Here’s an excerpt:

Moyamensing Prison, also known as also called the Philadelphia County Prison, was built in the Gothic style between 1832 and 1836 on the lot that spans 11th Street, Reed Street, and Passyunk Avenue. It had a similar castellated appearance to Eastern State Penitentiary on Fairmount Avenue. The first of Philadelphia architect Thomas Ustick Walter’s commissions, Moyamensing–nicknamed “11 Street Dock,” “the jug,” and “the county hotel”–was designed to evoke fear in its prisoners and would be troublemakers. Walter understood that since the prison would be housing violent criminals the building had to have a menacing outward presence. The fortress-like structure included the separate Debtors Apartment designed in an Egyptian-Revival style similar to the Temple of Amenhotep III along the Nile River. The debtors’ quarters doors were flanked by lotus-bud columns—the ornamental moulding above was decorated with a winged Aten sun disk. By the time of its completion in 1836, the law requiring the imprisonment of debtors was repealed. The prison used the new wing as a women’s annex.

Moyamensing Prison had a number of historic guests during its 127 years in operation. Al Capone and his body guard Frank Cline were arrested by detectives James Malone and Jack Creedon on May 16, 1929 and were imprisoned at Moyamensing for 24 hours after spending their first day behind bars in a City Hall jail cell. They were then transferred to Holmesburg Prison for a few months and then sent to Eastern State Penitentiary for the rest of their sentence.

You can check out the rest of the article here.