Photo Date: Unknown, Pre-1910
Location: The southeastern corner watchtower of the Ohio Penitentiary site.
The old Ohio Penitentiary first opened up in 1834. The most iconic building of the complex was that which lined West Spring Street and built during the Civil War. It can be seen in the background of the photo as the light building. The Ohio Pen had an interesting, and occasionally disastrous, life. On April 21, 1930, a massive fire broke out that would kill 322 inmates and become the worst prison fire in United State history. At its peak in 1955, the prison held over 5,200 inmates. After that year, the prison population steadily declined, and in 1984, the prison transferred its final inmates to other facilities, effectively ceasing operations. About 12 years later, a portion of the outer wall collapsed onto some cars, and the city began to aggressively plan a new life for the site. In 1998, despite some protests to save some of the historic buildings, the entire complex was demolished to make way for new development as part of the Arena District. Today, the only reminder of the prison site is that the eastern edge of McPherson Commons park runs along the same line as the original outer wall.