No Destination: State Reformatory

Administration Building of the Kentucky State Reformatory
Frankfort was once the home of Kentucky's penitentiary, but it was moved to Eddyville in 1912. Left behind was what became the "state reformatory." Overcrowding and a 1936 flood prompted Gov. Happy Chandler to seek the construction of a new Reformatory. Receiving $1 million from the state legislature and matching funds from the Public Works Administration, construction began on the La Grange facility in 1937. It opened in 1939.

The medium security facility houses about 2,000 inmates. The 12-story administration building is a great example of Depression Era, gothic-style architecture. According to the Oldham County Historical Society [PDF cite], the first ten stories housed offices and living quarters for staff, the eleventh floor housed elevator mechanics and the twelfth floor contained a now-unused 150,000 gallon water tank. (There is something quite illogical, however, of housing a water storage tank on top of mechanical/electrical systems.)


My brother used to talk about this dream he had where he was driving through rural Kansas where our grandparents lived, and the land was flat for as far as the eyes could see. Suddenly, this skyscraper appears in the distance...and its sitting out there by itself, completely out of place. When I moved to La Grange, I took him by the penitentiary so that he could see his dream. It really is striking.