Saturday, August 10

Mansfield, Ohio--Fun for a Day

"I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint."--Jeremiah 31:25

I really needed a break from the daily grind.  My extended hours have finally come to an end, at least for the time being, and I was tired.  Tired of being frustrated, tired of trying to keep up, tired of my surroundings.  I decided that I just needed to get out of town for the day.  I had some ideas, so I brought it up with the hubs and he was interested too, and we decided to take a day trip to Mansfield, Ohio, a little over an hour away--and found some great things to do!

My mom had mentioned a few weeks back that she went blueberry picking near where they live in Michigan.  That sounded like something I'd enjoy, so I decided to look up local blueberry u-pick patches in our area.  Unfortunately, all of the patches are at least an hour away in any direction, but there was a very popular one called The Blueberry Patch in Mansfield.  Boom!  Destination #1. 

I had done some research a while back (okay, when we first moved here, over five years ago) about area attractions, and was really surprised to find that the backdrop to the movie "The Shawshank Redemption" was in our backyard, so to speak--the Ohio State Reformatory, the location of this and a few other films, was located in Mansfield!  Ever since I found that, I had wanted to visit the building and grounds.  I'm not a big fan of the movie--I mean, I liked it when I saw it, and occasionally catch snippets whenever it's played on TV, but it's not a go-to movie for me.  BUT, I absolutely loved the building (you'd be surprised how often I pay more attention to the sets and backdrops in a movie instead of the plot), and when I found out that tours are offered of this spectacular late-Victorian prison, I was very interested.  Boom!  Destination #2.

We didn't have enough time to do everything that I found, but these were the two that interested us most.  We struck out on our adventure around mid-morning.

We had a great time picking blueberries.  I wanted to pick as many as possible to freeze for the winter.  When we arrived, we were given a bucket for our blueberries, and we filled it with a little over six and a half pounds.  We wish now that we had brought back two buckets full!  It was nice to just be out in the hilly countryside, enjoying an absolutely beautiful day together and listening to nature as we went up and down the rows picking our berries.  It was great!  There weren't that many people there, but there were families enjoying some quality time together.   It took us about an hour and a half to fill our berry bucket.

"Cell Block Cafe" food wagon
We finished up there and headed out for a bite to eat before heading to the prison.  Unfortunately, we couldn't find any convenient in-and-out places before we arrived to our second destination, but there was a little food cart outside of the entrance of the reformatory when we got there, so we enjoyed hot dogs, chips and water in the shade on the front lawn.  Then, we entered the prison.

Hmmm.  That's not a sentence that I ever thought I'd say, or in this case, type.

The building itself is in rough shape.  Certain areas have been updated for parts of the different movies filmed here, but overall, it's rough.  Lead paint is peeling and chipping off of all of the walls.  Water damage is apparent in several areas, along with rotting wood and termite damage.  Many windows are missing, but there are several stained-glass windows that look to be well-preserved.  The structure, however, is well-built and sound, and will be around for years to come.  They are working on preserving many architectural aspects of the buildings, and I'm sure that this will be a long-term, ongoing restoration.

A main staircase in the assistant warden's living quarters.  This staircase is not wood, but steel!  They attempted to make the building as fireproof as possible, using mostly metal, brick, and stone materials that would not burn as easily as a wood-frame structure.  It's worked so far!

The preservation organization is working on restoring parts of the building.  Here you can see a mantle that has been restored, and the trim around the left window is being replaced.  The stained glass transoms have been restored and are in beautiful condition.
A restored staircase at the end of the tour.  The restored staircase is a great late Victorian color scheme.
Guided tours were not offered when we went, so we just took a self-guided tour.  The tour route is marked, and took around two hours to walk through everything.  It was worth every penny of the admission price of $9.00/person!  Just to see the inner workings of how prisons were built and how they operated a hundred years ago was fascinating.  Hubby and I were shocked at how many hard-core Shawshank Redemption fans were there--we felt out of place, because we were more interested in the historic and architectural aspects of the compound, but it was neat seeing different rooms that were used in the movie (our recollection of the scenes was somewhat fuzzy, but they had photos of the scenes to refresh our memory).  I won't go into a lot of detail about the tour, but here are a lot of pictures and captions to give you an idea!
**Spoiler alert**--I believe I remember seeing a sign that this is the room from the Shawshank Redemption where they filmed one of the end scenes, when the warden commits suicide.
Another movie shot.  **Spoiler alert**--This is from the room in the prison where they filmed the apartment that Brooks and later Morgan Freeman's character live after being released from prison.  This is the rafter where Brooks hangs himself.  This is such a cheerful Steven King movie.  Because that's what Steven King is known for.  His uplifting stories.  Riiiiiiight.

The chapel on the top floor of the prison building.  All prisoners (up to 1900 of them) would attend church here on Sunday as part of their rehabilitation.  This room used to have a balcony.
The rehabilitation didn't take with some prisoners--here is an attempted escape from the chapel.  There were confession booths along this wall that were not bolted down, and when the prisoners would do their mandated janitorial work in the chapel, they discovered that the booths could be moved.  They started to scrape away the plaster and brick to try to get to the outside to escape, but this is as far as they got before being found out.  Not sure what they were going to do once they got through the wall--they were six stories from the ground in the chapel!

A cell that looked as it did in 1950.  It was probably a 5' x 10' cell, so hopefully the prisoners learned to get along.  Either that, or get shivved, I suppose.

This is the longest open cell block in the U.S.  I wish I could remember how long they said it was!  Just trust me, it was long.

A dizzying look up to the ceiling from the bottom floor of the cell block wing. 

These cell blocks were built around 1910.  Interesting that they bricked them in and only left a barred window and the barred door for light.

We weren't sure why the door and window lintels were painted gold here.  Possibly a movie cell?  We didn't see any displays or explanation plaques.  It'll remain a mystery for the time being.

We really had an enjoyable day, and were worn out when we finally got home, but it was also refreshing.  It was great to see something new, and do something together with my best friend.  A much-needed day away!

The entrance of the building.  The warden and assistant warden quarters are what you see on the left and right, and are actually attached to the prison.  This part of the building is exactly symmetrical.  And absolutely gorgeous, if you ask me!

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