EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was written in response to a reader-submitted question through Open Source, a platform where readers can ask Richland Source’s newsroom to investigate a question.
MANSFIELD -- A vacant inmate honor dorm near the Mansfield Correctional Institution is scheduled for demolition this fall.
But it's already beginning to self-demolish.
Richland Source reader Mark Davis noticed a section of the roof on the large, aging brick building had collapsed. He contacted the Source through its Open Source section and said:
"There is a large brick building on prison property that is visible from Ohio 13. The roof is collapsed and has been for some time. Real eyesore. What's the story with this building?"
The building was most recently used by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction when MANCI still had its prison farm in operation, a holdover from the old Ohio State Reformatory days dating back to the 1920s.
In the spring of 2016, the ODRC announced the MANCI prison farm was one of eight agricultural operations the state was shuttering to create new rehabilitation and job-training programs for inmates that better met current employment needs.
No decisions were announced about buildings associated with the former farming operation, leaving them largely unused since 2017. The farm once encompassed 1,485 acres on the city's north side and was considered at one time to be a "model of agribusiness."
The MANCI farm raised Angus cattle, in addition to crops, including corn, soybeans, hay, and sorghum. The sorghum is used for “green chop” to feed the cattle. The hay and corn were also used as feed and the soybeans were sold as a cash crop to help cover operating expenses. Other grain crops offered a combination of cash and feed crops.
Sara Downs, an ODRC spokesperson, said the vacant honor dorm was identified and funded for demolition prior to COVID-19, which reached Ohio in March 2020.
Like many things, the pandemic shut down those plans, according to Downs.
"The COVID emergency caused us to limit new construction and demolition projects to conserve funds and protect staff and incarcerated people from unnecessary outside contact," Downs said in an emailed reply to Richland Source questions.
"This project was put on hold last year. This summer DRC decided to proceed with the project. We are expecting to begin demolition this fall."
During a visit to the site on Tuesday, it didn't appear there were any barriers protecting the building -- or stopping people from approaching the building.
Marc Milliron, building and codes manager for the City of Mansfield, said his department is limited on what it can do since the buildings and property are owned by the State of Ohio. He has been in contact with the ODRC and has been also been told demolition is planned.
"We don't have a lot of jurisdiction over state buildings, but we have been keeping an eye on that (site)," Milliron said Tuesday.
He said he wasn't sure when the roof section collapsed or exactly what caused it, speculating it may have been a strong wind.
"I noticed it in May or June," Milliron said, "but it may have been before then."