The Ohio State Reformatory was built between 1886 - 1910 by architect Levi T. Scofield. It was built on the site of a former Civil War camp, Camp Mordecai Bartley. The prison was designed to look like the old world castles and cathedrals in Germany. The OSR was built as an intermediate prison between the Boys Industrial School in Lancaster and the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus. It was used for first time offenders, the more hardened criminals were sent to the Ohio Penitentiary.
On September 17, 1896 the first 150 inmates were brought to the OSR. The prison had not been finished at that time, so the inmates were used to build the the sewer system and the twenty-five foot tall wall that surrounded the fifteen acre complex. By 1910 the prison's construction was completed.
For awhile, the Ohio State Reformatory was considered to be one of the best prisons in the world. It still houses the world's largest free-standing cell block at six tiers high. However, by the early 1930's the prison was extremely overcrowded and outdated. By the 1980's the OSR was deemed unfit to serve as a prison. The state officially stopped using it as a prison in December of 1990.
The OSR has also caught Hollywood's eye a few times. Four films and a music video were filmed there:
Film Harry and Walter Go To New York - 1975
Film Tango and Cash - 1988
Film The Shawshank Redemption - 1993
Film Air Force One - 1996
Music video for "Awake" by Godsmack - 2000
Not long after the filming of The Shawshank Redemption, the state tore down all of the outbuildings and the prison wall so they could use the land to expand the new, neighboring Mansfield Correctional Institute. However, in 1995 the OSR's deed was turned over to a preservation society. They offer tours and ghost hunts, with the proceeds going to the restoration fund.