From the Archives

June 19, 2017

Author Rebecca McKinnell

The Ohio State Reformatory is “the largest castle-like structure in Ohio [and] it is one of the five largest in the United States" (The Haunted History of the Ohio State Reformatory by Sherri Brake). Although much of it was built by the inmates who were housed here, the initial administrative and living quarters, as well as the West Cell Block, were built by local masons and craftsmen. The stone came from a local quarry, nicknamed, “The Devil’s Punchbowl.”

The West Administrative wing will soon house the Ohio Prison Museum, but while it was under restoration a little item was found beneath the floorboards in one of the former office rooms. Buried in the fill dirt that was used below the floor was a small pottery item. Jeff Bell, a restoration woodworker, pulled the item out and found it to be a pipe. Jeff did some research and found that the pipe was manufactured by The Akron Pipe Smoking Company sometime between 1890 and 1915. There is a saying “if walls could talk.” Did one of the masons or craftsmen building this administrative office leave this as a reminder that they were there or did it fall there by accident? We will probably never know but it is a unique item that leaves a very human fingerprint on this massive structure which inmates used to call “the Castle."

Pipe manufactured by The Akron Smoking Company

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Walk the same halls as history's most infamous prisoners. Immerse yourself into the foundation that formed The Shawshank Redemption. Whether you're hunting for the paranormal or simply looking to tour the beautiful architecture, you can find it here at The Ohio State Reformatory.