Lansing’s Reform School For Boys: 1856-1973
Lansing's Reform School has been called an asylum, vocational hall, and juvenile hall, but the term most prefer is the Industrial School For Boys.
Bordered by Jerome Street, Marshall Street, Pennsylvania Avenue, and Saginaw Street, the school was open for business beginning in 1856, taking in both boys and girls who had backgrounds of criminal activities. The first enrollee took place on September 2, 1856. By 1857 the school had a total of 62 kids, eight of them girls. It was decided then and there that knowing “what young boys and girls do when no one's looking”, it was strictly a boys reform school from then on.
In the early years, it was limited to schoolwork and farm labor...but eventually other extra-curricular activities were added: baking, carpentry, cooking, hand weaving, painting, printing, shoe making, and others.
By 1917, the school population had risen to 800, thanks in part to the decision to take in orphans and giving them a place to live.
In the 1920's the school grounds included a barber, bowling alley, cobbler shop, fieldhouse, hospital, power plant, and tailor shop. They also had a 35-piece band (see photo below) that became popular throughout the state, but was dissolved when the depression hit.
In 1964, the population had been cut in half – only 400 boys were now enrolled.
It carried on for a few more years, then in the summer of 1972, Governor Milliken announced its closing, citing it as being inadequate for the boys of the 1970s. After closing in January 1973, the remaining boys were shipped to Whitmore Lake and Adrian.
Almost all the buildings were sadly torn down, all except for the fieldhouse, which is the only school building still standing. Chunks of land were sold and the site now contains a subdivision, Eastern High, and Lansing Catholic High.
If there isn't one, shouldn't there be an Historical Marker or some kind of plaque on the site remembering this institution?
LANSING'S REFORM SCHOOL FOR BOYS, 1856-1973
Lansing State Journal