The Shawshank Trail
An Adventure in the Movies
Story & Photos by Matt Bayman
MANSFIELD - The Shawshank Redemption is one of the most popular movies of all time, so it’s no surprise that its filming locations in and around Mansfield, Ohio (about two hours from Miami County) have become tourist destinations for fans.
After years of receiving calls and inquiries about the location of different filming sites, in 2008 the Richland County Visitor’s Bureau (Destination Mansfield) put together a self-guided tour for fans called The Shawshank Trail.
The “Trail,” which features stops in Mansfield, Ashland, Upper Sandusky and Malabar Farm State Park, can be driven any of time of year, but it’s best to visit between April 2 and September 2. This is when The Ohio State Reformatory, known as Shawshank Prison in the film, is open daily for tours from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The prison is a major highlight of the Trail, as well as the only site that costs anything to visit. Self-guided tours of the prison are $12 for adults and $10 for students, seniors, and military. On weekends, June through August, guided tours are offered for a few dollars more.
Inside the prison, which has been used in several other movies, including Air Force One and Tango and Cash, visitors can see Warden Norton’s office, Andy’s office, the Parole Board room, Brook’s hotel room (the carving of “Brooks Was Here” is still visible) and Andy Dufresne’s escape tunnel.
Regardless of whether you’re a fan of The Shawshank Redemption, a tour of this huge castle-like building is worth the drive alone. It contains the world’s tallest freestanding steel cell block, made up of six tiers, 12 ranges and 600 cells. The prison is also popular for ghost hunting, ghost walks, festivals, concerts and, from late September through the first weekend of November, Escape from Blood Prison – a haunted house attraction that’s open to the public.
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After visiting the prison, head into historic downtown Mansfield to see three other film sites, which are: the Brewer Hotel, the pawn shop window (where Morgan Freeman buys his compass) and Brook’s Bench where feeds the birds and looks for Jake. Beyond the Trail, Downtown Mansfield has much to see and do.
After Mansfield, head toward Malabar Farm State Park, where the opening scene of the movie was filmed, and where the Shawshank Oak Tree was formerly located. Unfortunately, it was struck by lightning a number of years ago, and has since been removed.
As with downtown Mansfield, Malabar Farm is worth a visit unto itself, as is nearby Mohican State Park and Mohican State Forest.
Nearby to Malabar Farm are several other Trail sites, including the “Road to Buxton” (where Morgan Freeman gets dropped off to go look for the oak tree) and “Red’s Bus Ride to Fort Hancock, Texas.”
The final parts of the Trail are in nearby Ashland, where you can see Maine National Bank and the Trailways Bus Station, and Upper Sandusky, which features the courthouse for Andy’s criminal trial and the Shawshank Woodshop.
Along with these film sites, local businesses along the Trail have Shawshank Redemption-themed foods, souvenirs and even some props from the film.
To learn more about the Shawshank Redemption Trail, visit www.shawshanktrail.com. To learn more about the haunted house this fall, visit www.bloodprison.com and for a full list of activities, events and festivals at The Ohio State Reformatory at www.mrps.org.
Mansfield is about 130 miles from most of Miami County. For a very nice scenic route there, take Ohio Route 47 east in Sidney to the town of Waldo. In Waldo, take Waldo-Fulton Road to U.S. Route 42 north into Mansfield. Or, take I-75 North to U.S. 30 East, and visit the Trail attractions in Upper Sandusky before reaching Mansfield.