When the prison was torn down, what happened to its pieces?
For 150 years, the Ohio Penitentiary stood in stark grandeur at the heart of Columbus. Opening its doors in 1834, the prison was located on West Spring Street between West Street and Dennison Avenue, now known as Neil Avenue. Its imposing architecture aside, life in the prison was far from grand. Executions were frequent—courtesy of the electric chair, “Old Sparky”—prisoner riots turned deadly, and the worst prison fire in U.S. history killed 322 inmates in 1930.
After funding decreased, the Ohio Pen was shuttered in 1984 and leveled in 1998 to make way for Nationwide Arena and the Arena District. But remnants from the original structure have been repurposed into various buildings and architectural flourishes in the area, says Carli Lanfersiek, marketing director for Nationwide Realty Investors, the district's developer.
Limestone from the Ohio Pen has been used in the exterior walls of the defunct Arena Grand Theatre and “the caretaker's house” (a service building) in Burnham Square Condominiums, as well as in the retaining walls along the North Bank Park walking path. Remnants are also visible as a decorative exterior element at Parks Edge Condominiums. Other relics from the Ohio Pen have been incorporated into the district's architecture, including iron cell doors used as flower and ivy trellises outside the Ohio Moline Plow Building on Front Street.
Not all the stone from the Ohio Pen has been used, but Lanfersiek says, “The few small remnants are too small to be used. They will not be used in buildings.”***
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