The OES visited the Toledo Workhouse on November 5, 2011. Officially called the Toledo House of Corrections, and sometimes referred to as the Whitehouse Workhouse or Toledo Workhouse, this abandoned prison is now part of the Blue Creek Conservation Area. The City of Toledo purchased the farm site, south of Whitehouse, in May 1917 and initially housed about twenty prisoners in the buildings already present on the farm. The main workhouse was constructed a year later. Prisoners arrived at the workhouse to serve time for their misdemeanor crimes and learn to grow crops, raise cattle and hogs, and quarry limestone. Other structures that were added to or used by the prison included a canning building, a corn crib, a hog barn, the warden's house, a jail annex, and a massive 20,873-square-foot barn that was built in the late 1920s.
By the mid-1960s, conditions at the workhouse had deteriorated. On September 21, 1966, eighty prisoners rioted and had to be quelled. Another prisoner had to be captured after he tried escaping during the chaos. An investigation revealed the riot occurred due to several factors, including vegetables being served that weren't properly cleaned and some had worms. Silverware was rusty, uniforms issued after the weekly shower had to be worked and slept in, mattresses were uncovered and blankets had not been aired in six months. Some restrooms were not in working order and the entire building was in need of cleaning. Not only that, but prisoners complained about not having access to proper medical care. The residing superintendent was relieved of his duties and a new superintendent was hired to shake down the workhouse. The workhouse fell on hard times again in the mid-1980s, when it was being considered to be expanded as a regional jail. The boilers needed replaced, substantial repairs were needed to the two main buildings, showers needed repaired, and the sewage treatment system was overflowing into the Blue Creek ditch. A new site southeast of Stryker was ultimately chosen for the regional jail and by late 1990, it was decided there was no way Toledo could afford the $3-$4 million a year needed to run the workhouse. It was shuttered in 1991.
The property was purchased in 2001 by the Metroparks of the Toledo Area and named Blue Creek Conservation Area. The park is currently only open during special events and is not yet open on a daily basis. The structural integrity of the old workhouse seemed sound during our visit, but asbestos, mold, lead-based paint, and a flooded basement were major issues. The park service is seeking the public's input on what they'd like to see at the conservation area once it is open for daily use. You may contact them through their website at http://www.metroparkstoledo.com with your suggestions. The ultimate fate of the old workhouse is yet to be determined, but given the hazards and the amount of money it would take to clean up the site, it will likely fall to the wrecking ball.
Thank you to the Metroparks of the Toledo Area for allowing us to photograph the site.