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A longer and stranger history is attached to the facility originally known as the Lima State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Situated on 628 acres three miles north of downtown Lima, the hospital was constructed between 1908 and 1915. Built at a cost of $2.1 million, it was the largest poured-concrete structure in the country until superseded by the Pentagon. Its walls are at least 14 inches thick, with steel reinforcement going right down to bedrock.
For much of its history, Lima State Hospital functioned largely as a warehouse. Patients sometimes staged dramatic protests against the conditions of their confinement, and frequently escaped (more than 300 escapes by 1978). Conditions improved significantly after 1974 as a result of a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of the patients. In a landmark ruling, U.S. District Judge Nicholas J. Walinski spelled out detailed requirements for assuring each patient’s rights to “dignity, privacy and human care.” In its last years, the state hospital was used for the filming of a made-for-television movie about the Attica Prison riots in New York.
Starting in 1982, Lima State Hospital became a medium-security prison, the Lima Correctional Institution. The prison closed in 2004, though a smaller prison on the site, the Allen Correctional Institution, remains.
A sprawling complex in rural Pickaway County with buildings dating to 1902, it opened initially as an asylum for the mentally disabled. Before its conversion to a prison in April 1984, Orient was Ohio's largest institution of its kind, warehousing thousands of mentally disabled people who lived regimented lives in dorms. The medium security prison held 1,724 of Ohio's 44,800 inmates
Construction began on the Ohio State Reformatory (OSR) in 1886 on a 600 acre site in Richland County. The prison opened its doors in 1896. OSR housed approximately 2,400 adult male inmates. The prison is home to the tallest steel cellblock in the world.
The last inmates were transferred out of the aging facility on December 31, 1990. In 1995, the prison was leased to the City of Mansfield and the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society. The former prison has been renovated and restored for use as a museum and office space. Inmates from the nearby Mansfield Correctional Institution perform grounds keeping at the facility.
Built in 1834, the Ohio Penitentiary was actually the second Ohio Penitentiary, the third state prison, and the fourth jail in early Columbus. In April 1955 it housed an all-time high of 5,235 prisoners. Most prisoners were removed from the prison by 1972 with the completion of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, and the facility was closed in 1984. The state sold the Ohio Penitentiary to the City of Columbus in 1995.
Much debate surrounded the future of the Ohio Penitentiary. When thoughts turned to demolishing the penitentiary, the preservationist community mounted a campaign to save at least five historic buildings on Spring Street. However, that effort failed and the Ohio Pen was demolished, with the exception of some sections of the Pen's limestone facade, which were dismantled for possible reuse.
The 23-acre site, bounded by Maple, West and Spring Streets and Neil Avenue, is now a 1,000 car parking lot for the $125 million Nationwide Arena, home to the NHL Columbus Blue Jackets, next door.[Back to top]