Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Ohio State Reformatory
After leaving Frankfort, KY, we spent a hectic five days in Dayton, OH looking for a rental house for our daughter Katie, who will be spending three years there getting her Doctorate. We now have a good feel for the house rental market there.
Then we headed north to Mansfield, Oh for the summer state rally of the Winnebago owners club. It was great to get together with our friends from the club. One of the highlights of the rally was a tour of the Ohio State reformatory. This proved to be a very interesting place. Built in the late 1800’s to provide humane and inspirational control of underage nonviolent offenders, it was a model for other such facilities around the country. The original building was so well designed and built that on the second floor the morning sun will shine thru two windows on the west side of the building and just miss the door jams and make a X of light in the center hall way.
The front portion of the building contained the living quarters of the warden and guards. It also contained a luxury suite that housed dignitaries including the Governor and other celebrities.
After serving as a reformatory for a number of years, it then continued as a state prison until 1990. The first prisoners were used to complete the prison cell houses. The first were made of brick and iron and the east and larger wing was built of free standing steel cells, six tiers high. The east wing, while occupying the same foot print as the older west wing held three times as many prisoners. This steel prison remains the largest free standing prison in the world.
When the prison closed, the state intended to demolish the structure. A conservancy group stepped in and prevented the destruction of the building. Unfortunately, there is no funding for restoration and it remains in poor condition. Fortunately tours are still conducted and everyone is warned about the existence of asbestos and lead paint that may be found almost everywhere.
The north section of the original compound is off limits, as a new high security prison remains on site where the exercise and recreation area was previously.
This place is more famous than I would have suspected, as it has been used in numerous movies including Air Force One, Tango and Cash and the Shawshank Redemption. There are still many remnants from these films still visible. The car wash from the Shawshank Redemption along with many of the rooms and cells used, which are marked and have pictures of how they looked during the movies. From Air Force one, the gate and courtyard where the general was released to board the helicopter along with a number of the movie props.
Our guide was very informative and funny. This site is worth going out of your way to visit.