Escape to Shawshank

Fans of the 1994 movie 'The Shawshank Redemption' can follow the footsteps of the prison characters during an Ohio tour.

Shawshank Oak 521 (photo credit: MCT)
Shawshank Oak 521
(photo credit: MCT)
LUCAS, Ohio – The tree is stately, but it’s no ordinary tree.
The oak is a Hollywood star with glitz and glitter and its own film credit.
Standing in the middle of a farmer’s field outside Malabar Farm State Park in north-central Ohio, the oak off Pleasant Valley Road is a tourist attraction and a stop on the state’s little-known Shawshank Trail.
The drive-it-yourself Hollywood tour around Mansfield in Richland County celebrates the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.
The Shawshank Trail, with 12 stops in three counties, has its own website, brochure, map and special offers for visitors.
If you start in Mansfield, hit all the local stops and then drive to Upper Sandusky, you’ll cover about 90 miles along the trail, organizers report.
The Shawshank Redemption, based on a Stephen King short story, earned an Academy Award nomination for Freeman. It had modest box-office success, but has become a cult favorite.
As much as 95 percent of the film was shot in Mansfield, including the now-closed Ohio State Reformatory. Other scenes were shot in Ashland, Butler and Upper Sandusky in Ohio, plus the Virgin Islands and Portland, Maine.
When “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) is released from prison, he follows instructions left him by Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) to find a box hidden beneath a tree.
Yes, that’s the Malabar Farm oak, although the cinematic setting is in New England. That rock wall, added through Hollywood magic-making, is where Dufresne has left a surprise for Redding.
The oak tree at Malabar Farm is easy to find. If you turn right on leaving the park, the tree will be on your left about 200 yards from the park entrance on the north side of Pleasant Valley Road.
It looks like a Hollywood star.
The tree is on private property, and visitors are asked not to trespass. You can view the tree in the middle of a grassy field from a turnoff on the south side of the road.
The biggest location from The Shawshank Redemption is the old Ohio State Reformatory on Mansfield’s north side.
Construction of the prison began in 1886. It opened in 1896 and housed about 154,000 prisoners over 94 years. It closed in 1990. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the reformatory boasts the world’s largest free-standing steel cell block.
The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society offers Sunday afternoon tours; the 2011 season began May 1. There are three tours, and they start from 1 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. on a rotating basis every 15 minutes. The tours continue through September.
The Hollywood tour includes a peek at Dufresne’s tunnel, which is 60 cm. in diameter. The sewage through which Dufresne crawled in the film was concocted from chocolate syrup, sawdust and water.
You can also see the warden’s office and the carving on the ceiling that reads “Brooks was here. So was Red.”
In addition, you can take a self-guided prison tour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through September.
Tickets for the Sunday and weekday tours are $8 for adults and $6 for children seven to 17.
All 15 ghost hunts and eight ghost walks in the old prison are sold out for 2011. The 2012 schedule will be released in October. For information, call (419) 522- 2644 or check or
Other Mansfield sites in the movie include Central Park with its white gazebo; the Carrousel Antique Shop at 118 N. Main Street in the city’s historical Carrousel District; and the Bissman Building at 193 N. Main Street (it was the Brewer Hotel in the film).
Stops in Ashland include Revivals Thrift Store at 345 Orange Street and the Huntington National Bank at 19 W. Main Street.
In Upper Sandusky, the trail stops are the Wyandot County Courthouse at 109 S. Sandusky Avenue and the Stephan Lumber Co. at 228 S. Eighth Street (open by appointment with advance notice, (419) 835-5163).
Two other sites in Malabar Farm State Park are stops on the Shawshank Trail: the so-called Big House and the Pugh Cabin.
The Big House has its own very real Hollywood connection. The 32-room farmhouse, the one-time home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author and conservationist Louis Bromfield (1896-1956), is where Hollywood stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married in 1945.
Bogart and Bromfield had become friends when the latter lived in New York City.
The farm, acquired by Bromfield in 1939, was the base for his innovative farming techniques in Pleasant Valley. The farm was named after India’s Malabar coast, the setting for his novel The Rains Came.
The farm is the big attraction at the 917-acre state park between Mansfield and Loudonville. It was acquired by the state in 1972.
The park offers 19 kilometers of hiking trails, but tours of the Big House and the barns with the farm animals are the most popular attractions. Tours lasting 40 minutes are offered year-round. The fee is $4 for adults, $3.60 for 55 and older and $2 for students six through 18.
The house is filled with antiques, art objects, 6,000 books and French furnishings. Everything looks like it did when Bromfield, his wife Anne and their three daughters lived there.
Wagon tours of the farm are also available. The tours are 45 minutes, and the fee is $2 for everyone 16 and older.
Discounted tickets combining the house tour and wagon ride are $5 for adults and $3 for children six to 18.
Other features at the park include a working dairy barn, a petting farm, a farm discovery center, a sugar maple camp, a sawmill, a smokehouse, a chicken coop, flower gardens, an amphitheater, a playground and a roadside stand for pesticide-free produce.
For more information about Malabar Farm, contact the park at 4050 Bromfield Road, Lucas, Ohio 44843, (419) 892-2784, or
For information about the Shawshank Trail, contact the Mansfield & Richland County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 124 N. Main Street, Mansfield, Ohio 44902, (419) 525-1300 or (800) 642-8282, or
Check the website for other attractions along the route and special lodging packages and meal deals.
Offers include a Shawshank sandwich, a prison bundt cake, chocolate candy bars, prison break sodas and ice cream sundaes.
– Akron Beacon Journal/MCT