There are two Forgotten and abandon prisons in Perry County Ohio, the old Roseville prison and the Junction City prison were the movie Brubaker staring Robert Redford was filmed in 1980. The junction City prison has been demolished but the Roseville prison is still standing.
The Roseville Prison was built in 1926. It operated for twenty years, from 1927 through 1933 and later from 1952 through 1966. The medium security prison housed about 300 inmates. The inmates worked in a brick plant located at the facility. They were capable of producing 30,000 bricks each day.
The guard towers are perhaps the best reminder left of the old prison, and still stand guard over the property, and apparently so does the current owners as I was questioned by them when I was taking this photo.
The prison is said to be haunted by a lady in white. On some evenings, the apparition supposedly jumps to her death, re-enacting her suicide. Shadowy figures are often seen peering from the guard tower as well. Ghostly lights, shadows, and noises are a common occurrence.
The Roseville Jail was one of two satellite facilities belonging to the old Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus (now demolished for a hockey arena); the other satellite was located in Junction City. Roseville was a minimum security work facility – usually a reward for good behavior in the state pen. The inmates had built the prison itself in 1928, the bricks even bearing the marks “convict made,” and here they would work at the ovens to produce bricks for other state construction projects. Many bricks made at Roseville were marked with the letters “OBA,” which stand for the Ohio Board of Administration.
A few buildings are surrounded by three guard towers, and inside is an old baseball field where the inmates would umpire for local games. Two houses that were used by the prison wardens are also nearby. The state abandoned the prison and gave the property to Muskingum County in 1966; it has been utilized for manufacturing, a haunted house, paintball arena, and a used tire storehouse since, but for the most part remained abandoned. In June 2007, it was going to be sold for $89,500, but the deal fell through, and it is now owned by some trucking company and there is rumor of a restaurant going in the old main building, the old Roseville prison ball field scoreboard still remains.
The original brick plant was built in 1908 with labor supplied by residents of the village. But in 1913, the facility was purchased by the State of Ohio and used as a center for the care of aged and disabled prisoners. The prisoners used the 22 acres of land and the brick plant (where bricks were made for state structures and streets) while serving their time. During an escape attempt on September 2, 1927, prison guard Grant Weakly was shot and killed by convicts Patrick Riley and Fred Kellogg as he escorted the two and two others to a dentist office. The two escapees were apprehended about one mile from New Lexington. In 1928, the center burned to the ground and was rebuilt of brick by inmate labor.
The prison re-opened but was closed in 1935, sending all the inmates back to the Ohio Pen. The prison was re-opened in 1938 with an additional 40 acres and a third floor. An educational wing was added in 1970. On January 7, 1974, two inmates took three female workers hostage at knifepoint. After several tense hours, twenty-eight troopers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol raided the room, killing one inmate and injuring the other. All three women escaped without serious injury. The prison finally closed for good in 1977, last housing a division of psychiatric criminology treatment center.
The prison was purchased soon after it closed by Nepco for use as a gasohol refinery. The most interesting fact about the prison was the 1978 filming of the 1980 motion picture Brubaker. The movie that starred Robert Redford, Yaphet Kotto, David Keith, and Morgan Freeman, was about a warden who took a failing prison and turned it around by entering the system as a prisoner. If you had ever been to the prison, Brubaker is a must-see film. Since the film used local talent, Hollywood came and left the area without any noticeable population change. Click here if you would like to purchase a copy of the film on DVD from Amazon.
In the early 1990s, a company called Perry County Pizza occupied the newer cinderblock section of the prison. They made frozen pizza kits for school fundraisers, using the farm to grow fresh peppers for their kits. The company left behind several pieces of equipment and documents related to the pizza kit. It seems that the company closed in a hurry and did not bother selling off their assets.