‘Get busy living or get busy dying’

The Ohio State Reformatory (photo by Damaine Vonada)

When The Shawshank Redemption was released in 1994, no one predicted the movie would make Mansfield, Ohio, a tourist destination for fans. Filmed almost entirely in and around Mansfield, the prison drama stars Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne, a banker wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, and Morgan Freeman as Ellis “Red” Redding, the resourceful inmate who befriends him. Its core themes of hope and friendship so profoundly affected audiences that Shawshank not only ranks first on the IMDb list of all-time favorite movies, but also is one of the “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films” selected for the prestigious National Film Registry.

Because Shawshank devotees from around the world make pilgrimages to the movie’s locations, the Destination Mansfield–Richland County tourism bureau created the Shawshank Trail, a self-guided tour that includes the Ohio State Reformatory – which famously “portrayed” Shawshank State Prison — and 15 other stops. “The Shawshank Trail is unique,” says Jodie Snavely of Destination Mansfield–Richland County. “No other place has as many filming sites.”

This August, Mansfield is celebrating The Shawshank Redemption’s 25th anniversary with special activities and tours at the trail sites. Aficionados of the beloved movie can view props, such as Andy’s secret tunnel; meet numerous cast members — including Bob Gunton, aka Warden Norton — at various events; and retrace Andy’s and Red’s unforgettable odyssey location-by-location. Here’s a glimpse of what visitors will experience along the way:

Pugh Cabin at Malabar Farm State Park

Andy’s wife, Linda, meets with her lover inside this cabin in Shawshank’s opening scene, while Andy sits outside in his 1946 Plymouth and fingers a revolver and a bottle of bourbon. Actors Renee Blaine (Linda) and Scott Mann (Linda’s lover) will sign autographs here during the 25th anniversary celebration.

Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield

Opened in 1896, this massive prison is a local landmark and a grim reminder of the 150,000 inmates who served time within its stone walls. Thanks to Shawshank, it’s also something of a shrine for fans who love to tour Warden Norton’s office, visit the set used for paroled prisoner Brooks Hatlen’s hotel room, and pose with life-sized cutouts of Andy, Brooks, and Red.

Brooks’ Bench, Central Park, Mansfield

Played by the late actor James Whitmore, Brooks ran the prison library where Andy worked. Unable to assimilate into society after his parole, Brooks spends a lot of time sitting on the bench at the park to feed the birds.

The Bissman Building, Mansfield

(Drive-by only) It once housed a wholesale grocery and supplied bootleggers, but in Shawshank, this downtown building set the scene for the newspaper office and the façade for the hotel where Brooks hanged himself.

Wyandot County Courthouse, Upper Sandusky

The beautiful courtroom where Andy’s trial was filmed can be seen only when court is not in session. During the 25th anniversary weekend, re-enactors wearing Shawshank-era costumes will greet visitors, and period automobiles will be displayed on the courthouse lawn.

Shawshank Woodshop, Upper Sandusky

The former Stephan Lumber Company provided the backdrop for the iconic scene in which Andy defiantly plays opera music that enchants prisoners who are supposed to be working. The building’s fine collection of old machinery includes the saw that Red used.

Revivals 2 Thrift Store, Ashland

Now home to a retail shop, the building doubled as the Trailways Bus Station where Red broke parole and embarked on the journey that reunited him with Andy at the end of the movie.

The Shawshank Redemption 25th Anniversary Celebration

Although most Shawshank Trail sites are free or request donations, the Ohio State Reformatory charges admission for tours, and some anniversary events — including the Renaissance Theatre’s screening of The Shawshank Redemption — require tickets. For information about purchasing tickets and a complete schedule of events and cast appearances, visit the Shawshank Trail’s website.