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Where the Shawshank Redemption was Filmed – the Abandoned Ohio State Reformatory:

Bojan Ivanov

The Ohio State Reformatory (OSR), or more simply known as the Mansfield Reformatory, is a famous prison situated in Mansfield, Ohio in the United States of America.

Constructed between 1886 and 1910, it was eventually closed in 1990 due to its inhumane conditions.

The state of Ohio in the American Midwest. Author: Alexrk2 CC BY 3.0

The state of Ohio in the American Midwest. Author: Alexrk2 CC BY 3.0

The story of the Ohio State Reformatory began in 1861. During the American Civil War, the Union Army used the field where the reformatory would one day be erected as a training ground for more than 4,000 soldiers. In 1876, the state authorities transformed the training camp into the Intermediate Penitentiary institution for adolescents who had broken the law for the first time.

Ohio State Reformatory

Ohio State Reformatory

The architect responsible for the original design was Levi T. Scofield, a well-known architect from Cleveland. He used three architectural styles: Victorian Gothic, Richardsonian Romanesque, and Queen Anne. His primary idea was to construct a reformatory to help encourage prisoners to return to God. But the creator of the final building was famous architect F.F. Schnitzer.

Interior, cell-block windows. Author: Brenda Gottsabend CC BY-SA 3.0

Interior, cell-block windows. Author: Brenda Gottsabend CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1891 the Intermediate Penitentiary changed its name to the Ohio State Reformatory, and in 1896 the building was transformed into a federal prison which housed offenders from all over the country. The first 150 convicts were brought by train from Columbus. They were put to work on the prison sewer system and the 25-foot stone wall encircling the 15-acre complex. The building of the wall ended in 1910 and the construction of the whole project was finally finished.

Single cell. Author: Brenda Gottsabend CC BY-SA 3.0

Single cell. Author: Brenda Gottsabend CC BY-SA 3.0

Ohio State Reformatory quickly became a place full of violence. More than 200 prisoners died while serving sentences there. Many died from disease, but some committed suicide, others died in fights, and some were killed by prison staff after being punished for their behavior. Four prisoners were killed by the electric chair.

A few guards were killed when prisoners attempted to escape. But the most brutal event was the abduction and murder of the prison’s superintendent, his wife, and his 20-year-old daughter in a cornfield near the prison. In the history of Ohio State Reformatory, more than 150,000 prisoners were held there. The prison was closed in 1990 because of its poor conditions. In the graveyard next to the prison there are 215 grave markers.

Exterior of the facility. Author: Mike Sharp CC BY-SA 3.0

Exterior of the facility. Author: Mike Sharp CC BY-SA 3.0

The prison is now a museum and the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society maintains the building. Most of the complex has been demolished since its closure. The building is one of the most beautiful castle-like structures in the United States. The Reformatory has the world’s tallest free-standing steel cell block, made of 6 tiers, 12 ranges and 600 cells. The interior is decaying, but in the near future, it will be restored to its original state. Four great motion pictures were filmed here: Tango and Cash, Harry And Walter go to New York, Air Force One, and The Shawshank Redemption.