Setting Its Sites

Jerry Miller, his son Jeff and Bob Shutt stand by the North Central Ohio Industrial Museum’s signage.

North Central Ohio industrial museum celebrates a rich past and promising future

By Terry Troy

Located in what is best known to movie aficionados as Shawshank Prison, the North Central Ohio Industrial Museum (NCOIM) is actually located in the kitchen of the old Mansfield Reformatory in its lower east diagonal. The distinctive building has been used as the site for many prison movies, but it’s also within sight of two different industrial sites: one that shows this region’s storied industrial past, the other that shows a promising manufacturing future.

It’s a great multi-purpose for a part of this large, distinctive and somewhat spooky building, which also houses the Penitentiary Museum of Ohio as well as events like the recent Escape from Blood Prison during Halloween and Inkcarceration, a summer music and tattoo festival that attracts more than 75,000 visitors over its three days.

“We are looking at the old Reformatory as a campus of museums,” says Jerry Miller, president of the nonprofit that runs the NCOIM. “So in addition to the Penitentiary Museum, we are also looking at creating a movie museum and a Civil War museum because this was once used as a Civil War encampment.”

The North Central Ohio Industrial Museum is located in the lower east diagonal of the Old Mansfield Reformatory.

More importantly, for those of us with a more business minded attitude, the NCOIM celebrates a very important part of our state’s industrial past.

“This is actually the third name for this museum,” says Miller. “It started back in the ‘90s as the Richland Industrial Museum, then it became the North Central Manufacturing Museum, before we changed it to the North Central Ohio Industrial Museum. I have to give credit to Bob Glasener, who saw factories closing in our area, and started to collect items to create this museum.”

The reason for the museum’s creation is simple, says Miller, who also owns a local metal fabricating company called MAPCO (Midwest Aircrafts Products Company), located in Lexington.

“There are only three ways to create wealth in this country: mining, farming and manufacturing,” he says. “If you don’t have wealth, you don’t have freedom. If you don’t have freedom, you don’t have a republic. Obviously, there are not that many miners around here anymore. I only know a couple of farmers. And even with all that we have lost over the years, there are still maybe 25,000 manufacturing jobs in our area—which makes it still the No. 1 sector for employment in Richland County.”

Visitors coming in the main entrance walk through the same marquee that Tappan employees used to walk under on their way to work.

Industry thrives in Nort Central Ohio because of the groundwork laid by former generations of the citizens that lived, worked and toiled here, says Miller. Back in the 1800s, Richland County was home to some 160 different mills, which led to the creation of a baking company that eventually grew into the National Biscuit Company or Nabisco.

“We also had three major railroads passing through, which would bring supplies and materials for manufacturing,” notes Miller. “At one time, we had 10 cigar factories, even though they never grew tobacco in this area.”