As you’re driving up to the largest castle-like structure in all of Ohio, it’s easy to imagine how its mammoth size and Gothic design must have intimidated many of the 155,000 men who once did time there. These days it captivates history buffs, moviegoers and ghost hunters.
Built in the late 1800s, the Ohio State Reformatory covers more than a quarter of a million square feet. It’s listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places and was the setting for “The Shawshank Redemption” as well as “Air Force One,” Tango & Cash” and “Harry & Walter Go to New York.”
The “Hollywood” and “Behind the Scenes” tours go into places like “The Yard” where “Shawshank’s” Andy and Red would talk, the parole board room and Andy’s escape tunnel. On the West Tower tour, see the cemetery where real-life inmates were buried, and on the East Cell Block tour, marvel at the world’s largest free-standing steel cell block.
After your visit at the reformatory, take “The Shawshank Tail Drive-it-Yourself Tour” in Mansfield where other scenes from the movie were filmed.
While you’re downtown, visit The Coney Island Diner, 98 N. Main St., for the diner’s famous Pea Salad. Then, go catty-corner to the Richland Carrousel Park to ride on a hand-carved wooden carousel — the first new carousel built and operated in the United States since the 1930s. It’s handicapped accessible. Through Labor Day, the carousel is open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.- 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. After Labor Day, check website for times: www.richlandcarrousel.com