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Exploring Ohio – Touring The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield

Ohio State Reformatory

Have you ever been to the Ohio State Reformatory? You may have also heard it as the Mansfield Reformatory. It is located in Mansfield, Ohio. I have heard about it over the years but we never went to check it out until recently. We actually went to tour the place this past weekend. It was built in 1886 through 1910 and remained in operation until the place was shut down in 1990. I love old buildings with beautiful architecture. The reformatory was built using three architectural types; Victorian Gothic, Richardsonian Romanesque and Queen Anne.

Ohio State Reformatory

A little history

The other interesting piece of information about the place is that it was the main location for the filming of the Shawshank Redemption. I love that movie and have probably seen it maybe 437 times. Okay, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point. It’s also been used to film other parts of movies such as Air Force One. It was used for scenes of a Russian Prison. Over the years I have heard things about the place being haunted and there have been stories about ghost sighting. In fact, Ghost Adventures did a lock down there in season 3. I remember watching that episode. In addition, there have been other movie scenes and TV shows that have filmed there.

There is a lot of history about the place. If you want to know more, do a little bit of research. There’s a lot of interesting things if you like history about such places!

Restoration of the building

When we first walked in, we saw the staircase in front of us. The stairs have been re-done along with a lot of other restoration around the place. If you saw Shawshank Redemption, you may notice that the stairs in the movie were like a cherry colored wood.

I love the floors in the front area. All the rooms on the first floor have been restored. The floor, the windows and the wood is really pretty. Fun fact; the window in the photo above is where they shot a scene from Air Force One. The bars on the window was built there for the movie scene. If you look out that window, there is also a free standing gate that was built just for the movie scene.

I am not sure what this room was ever used for but it was one of the rooms on the first floor that I thought was gorgeous. They have been working on restoring the building over the years. There is a lot of rooms and area throughout the building that have been restored and/or preserved really well. They have done a really great job preserving the rooms that were used for movie scenes too.

Ohio State Reformatory Museum displays

Museum Displays

There are rooms on the first floor of the Ohio State Reformatory that also hold museum displays. These are displays of items or furniture some of the inmates had made. There are also displays of some items from the prison and other items the guards used. You will also be able to read some history and stories about the prison as you walk through these areas.

Ohio State Reformatory museum displays

You can also see the electric chair that was used. 

Heading upstairs

The second floor of the Ohio State Reformatory features the Warden’s residence. There are a lot of joining rooms on this floor. Most have either been restored or are still in the process of being restored. There are a lot of rooms with closets in them too.

We even found a bathroom. There were tons of rooms to walk through and look at. If I would include them all in this post, well let just say it would be a really long post because I took a lot of photos.

Ohio State Reformatory warden's office

Shawshank Redemption Filming Areas

The above photo is a picture of the Warden Norton’s office. This room was seen a lot in the movie when the Warden got Andy Dufresne to work for him. Andy was even in the office when we walked in! There is also the safe in the wall. Andy was standing by it. I didn’t get a chance to get a photo since there was a group of people over there. I thought this room was pretty cool to see!

Ohio State Reformatory red's parole

Next we have the parole board room. This is where they filmed Red’s parole scene. Red was standing over in the corner and my daughter went over to say “Hi” since he didn’t look very happy standing there. Morgan Freeman kind of startled me though because I wasn’t expecting him to be standing there.

Ohio State Reformatory red's parole

What I thought was really cool was that they had a copy of Red’s script from this scene sitting on the table. I’ve seen this movie so many times (remember, I said it was 437 times?) that I know it line for line. But I thought that was pretty cool.

Ohio State Reformatory brooks was here

We got to walk through Brooks’ hotel room. In the movie, the Bissman Building was the site of the Brewer Hotel in the movie where Brooks was staying after being paroled. The front of the building was shot for the film but the actual “hotel room” was filmed in the Reformatory. You can actually drive to see the location of the building and even “Brooks’ bench” that was filmed. Those places are close to the area.

Ohio State Reformatory brooks' hotel room

Ohio State Reformatory brooks was here

Seeing these rooms and film locations from the movie was pretty exciting!

Guard Room – Visitors

Eventually we came to a large open room which I believe was used for visitors visiting inmates. The first part we passed through was the guard room. After passing though there we found ourselves in this giant, impressive room with pillars.

The floor was gorgeous. Oh, and there’s Andy again. I don’t know why he was standing in the guard room or even how he made it up there from the Warden’s office before we got there. Of course we were making our way through pretty slowly though checking everything out.

After we got home, I wanted to watch the movie so I popped in the DVD. I noticed in the movie that this guard room – visitors area was used as the prison mess hall/cafeteria in the Shawshank Redemption. That’s why I wanted to watch the movie after touring this place. I just had to see if I could be able to point out other things we saw since a lot of the movie was filmed at the Reformatory.

East Cell Block?

I can’t remember which is the East or West cell blocks. But the first cell block we walked through started at the top. There is a sign posted on a cell where an inmate had set himself on fire. As we walked through, my kids liked going into some of the cells to check them out.

I don’t know how many times they went in one and said, “Hey, take a picture of me in this one!” After a few of them I had to stop because I don’t think I really needed a photo of them in like 57 different cells. There are obviously more cells than that. I just like making up numbers.

As we made our way down each block, there were offshoot areas to check out on different levels. I can’t remember which level or block all of these were located at though. One of them was this shower room. This one I do know is in the West block. I only remember because of the placard that is there. There have been reported ghost sightings in the west shower. We didn’t see any ghosts but for some reason, this room was pretty creepy to me.

The Library and Chapel

Another one of the rooms we saw was the library. This might have been on the west block too now that I think about it because I am pretty sure it was on the same side as the west shower room. I could be wrong though. But I thought this room was pretty neat too.

After we got through one of the cell blocks, we came across the Chapel. Oh my gosh, the Chapel was gorgeous. It might be still in need of restoration but it doesn’t matter. The enormous room was amazing. It was a really impressive room. I could just imagine what it would look like after it’s restored.

West Cell Block?

Again, I can’t remember which was which but I do know there is an east and west block. On this block, the tour continues on the ground unlike the other block. The cells also look a little different on this block.

And because they looked different, we needed more photos.

I told them earlier in the tour that they looked awful happy to be in jail.

So my daughter tried to look defeated behind the bars. My son tried…

Along the way there were some dark places. At the end of the block was Solitary Confinement. We walked back through there too. It was a little darker back there walking along all those solitary confinement cells. Also a little creepy.

Ohio State Reformatory shawshank tunnel props

Shawshank Redemption Tunnel Props

In the large room before walking through the Solitary Confinement area, they had a few props sitting in there. In these enormousness boxes, they had made-made tunnels that were made for the movie. One of them was the tunnel leading out of Andy Dufresne’s cell. There was a second man-made tunnel that was much longer that was used when he made his escape out of prison. I thought these were pretty neat. 

That was pretty much the end of our tour – after the Solitary Confinement. After you walk through that area, you wind back around into the large room with the tunnel props and then head up some steps from there to exit. We ended up back at the entrance again. They also have a museum gift shop you can check out and a little cafe area. There isn’t much in the cafe though.

The above photos were taken from one of the windows. It’s such a gorgeous building. There is also a pond out there too. You can take a walk around and even enjoy some lunch out there if you brought it with you. We didn’t walk down to the pond though because it started raining on us.

Ohio State Reformatory shawshank trail

The Shawshank Trail

Most of the movie was filmed at the Ohio State Reformatory – 95% of the movie was filmed in roughly the same area; Mansfield, Ashland, Butler, and Upper Sandusky, Ohio. If you are interested in the other Shawshank filming locations, you should grab one of these brochures. Inside lists all the movie location and you can take a driving tour at your own leisure. Some of the locations I have already mentioned in the Brooks’ part of my post.

You can see the courthouse and enter the courtroom where Andy had his trial. You can visit Malabar Farms where they filmed the opening scene. Malabar Farms also has it’s own history and is a fun place to stop and tour on it’s own before leaving Mansfield. They also have free hiking and walking trails open to the public. Another film location from the farm is the big oak tree where Red finds Andy’s note he left for him. You can view it from there. There are 16 locations!

Reformatory Tour Costs

They offer guided tours at the Ohio State Reformatory which cost a little more than self guided tours do. We opted for a self guided tour. That way we could explore on own. Take our time or move on when we wanted. A self guided tour was $15 per adult and $13 for students (kids ages 6 up to college). Children under 6 are free. I liked the self guided tour. I actually prefer it that way. They offer audio wands that are optional. We grabbed one. It’s a $5 fee per wand. But any time we saw one of the placards we could enter the number on them and listen to the history or stories about a particular room or area. I thought that was pretty cool.

They also offer bus tours for the Shawshank Trail if you didn’t want to take your own driving tour. They also have events and ghost tours too but you have to be 18 or older for those. You can check out the Ohio State Reformatory MRPS facebook page for more info. The website is listed on their page as well. In August (16th-18th, 2019) they have a 25th Shawshank Anniversary event if you are interested.

So, have you ever been to the Ohio State Reformatory? If not, it’s definitely worth checking out. Whether you love the Shawshank Redemption, ghost stories and creepiness, or you just love architecture and checking out the beauty of old buildings (for me, it’s all three), I recommend a visit to Mansfield! If you are interested in history, you should stop by the US Air Force Museum in Dayton!

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About Nicole Anderson

My name is Nicole and I write DustinNikki Mommy of Three. I enjoy writing product reviews and hosting giveaways. I have been married to my high school sweetheart for 20 years and we have three kids. When I am not terribly busy running someone to band or soccer practices, I find some time to write. I also like to write about my kids, family and life. My family enjoys the outdoors - hiking, canoeing, and exploring things we haven't seen or been before. Thanks for stopping by and checking out my blog!
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10 thoughts on “Exploring Ohio – Touring The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield

  1. There are some very gorgeous buildings through older parts of Ohio. It is a pretty nice state to visit!

  2. The United States has always been on my bucketlist! I haven’t had a chance so visit anything like this reformatory before, so it would be quite exciting for me! Love your photos, they help me imagine how everything used to look like in the past. 🙂

  3. Oh my goodness I bet this was an interesting place to go and visit. Reading about the history of the building etc would be absolutely fascinating to me.

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