Abandoned Places: The Mansfield Reformatory

Mansfield Reformatory 2014

Abandoned and historic places appeal to me as a story teller. I imagine what the place was like before it was abandoned. I imagine how the people lived. I think about their stories, ordinary and extraordinary.  Sometimes a small object creates a connection for me, and people as abstractions become real.
 I took this picture in the superintendent’s quarters while on a tour of the Ohio State Reformatory. Finding something so intimate in the midst of what has been stripped of the personal, like this rusty hairpin brought home to me the reality of people living inside an operating prison. Who did it belong too? Did it belong to a woman who lived here when it was an operating prison?
Was it lost as she hurried out to some event? Did she stop and look for it? Did it fall from the hair of a visitor, or a tourist?
I am still sorting out my feelings about the tour. I was fascinated, and horrified by what I saw. The prison opened in 1896. One hundred fifty-five thousand men, and boys as young as fifteen, passed through this hell on earth until it closed in 1990.
How many are still alive? How many wished they were dead while here? How many didn’t care? Did they deserve it? Guilty or innocent? So many stories waiting to be told.
Here are few more pictures I took.

This is 8′ x 5′.  It housed two prisoners.

The cells faced the windows.

The showers.

Six tiers of cells

If your are interested in visiting. The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society (http://www.mrps.org) manages the tours and is dedicated to preserving the reformatory.