This week I decided to make a little bit of a trip up to Mansfield to go explore The Ohio State Reformatory. And it is by far one of the coolest places I have ever been! My initial interest was sparked years ago when I learned that one of my all time favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption, was filmed here. I finally made the two and a half hour drive, paid for a self guided tour, and spent the next three hours exploring this site.
If you've seen Shawshank Redemption, you may recognize this room as the warden's office-pretty crazy! The safe is even in the wall! The tour was really cool because you first start out exploring the staff offices and warden's quarters. I wasn't expecting to see all of those areas, and I was surprised to find how interesting they were. Absolutely beautiful, really-kind of a photographers dream.
There's so much history in this place. It opened to it's first prisoners in 1896 and boasts some pretty amazing architecture. It became a maximum security facility in the mid-twentieth century and later closed in 1990 when it was seen as unfit for use. Over 155,000 men came through this prison. I wish now that I had taken a guided tour because I feel like there is so much history here that I missed by exploring on my own. Not that I regret it by any means, but I guess this just means I'm going to have to go back.
As cool as the first part of the tour was, I knew when I got to the chapel that it was about to get even more interesting. There is something about standing in the same place that so many prisoners did that gave me chills. It was so strange-it's kind of hard to explain, honestly.
The chapel was actually very beautiful, which surprised me for being in a prison. Maybe because it is so textured now, it gave it a different element than it held a hundred years ago. It's a little haunting though because there are bars on all the windows and padlocks everywhere. But that's really nothing until you walk into the East Cell Block:
The East Cell Block is the world's largest free standing steel cell block. It's six stories high and consists of rows upon rows of cells. It was difficult to even imagine what it must have looked like full of prisoners and guards.
Crazy, right?? Besides seeing the cell blocks and the prisoners "living quarters", you also can see the library and gym, both of which creeped me out a little because they seemed so abandoned. It didn't help that I was in there completely alone-and I found a dead bird on the floor which didn't help matters. But, it was really neat to see where else the prisoners roamed.
If you are up for it, I would highly recommend making a trip here. It's full of Ohio history-maybe not the cleanest kind, but history nonetheless. It's a really cool place to explore, photograph, and learn. And if you love movies, you can see where a bunch of film was shot. I went alone, and enjoyed the whole tour, except for solitary confinement. I won't post any pictures of that on here, because that is a level of creepy I will let you decide if you want to experience it or not! (It really wasn't so bad, I just didn't enjoy going in there alone)
Head over to the website to check out all the tours they offer, the pricing and the hours. It looks as if they do haunted tours for the fall and Halloween, so if that's your thing, definitely check it out! I'm planning on going back in the near future and learning more about the history here and maybe even see some of the behind the scenes stuff as well!