Superintendents' Residence

Under New Management: 1906-1921

Eastern was first placed under the jurisdiction of the State Prison Department to facilitate the work of construction. In 1906, the legislature deemed it was time to put the original reformatory plan into operation; it removed the new institution from the Prison Department and placed it under a newly created State Board of Managers of Reformatories, which would have jurisdiction over both male reformatories.

The new administrative scheme did not make much practical difference to Eastern. Construction was by no means complete, and a full program of reformatory activity was years away, regardless of whether a prison or a reformatory administration was in charge. Besides, Elmira's managers had had a hand in Napanoch's management all along. After the first year, most of its inmates came from and were selected by Elmira -- men older and stronger than the usual reformatory prisoner, fit for construction and farm work.

George Deyo was the first superintendent appointed by the new Board of Managers. (Technically, he held the position of assistant superintendent. The 1906 reorganization created a single reformatory superintendent with assistants at the Elmira and Eastern branches; in practice, Deyo was in full charge at Eastern.) Deyo's association with the facility had begun in 1894 when he was named one of the building commissioners. He was subsequently appointed warden of Clinton Prison in 1901, and in 1906 he was rewarded with the appointment as superintendent of the new reformatory in his home community.

For the next 14 years, Deyo continued the job of building the reformatory. The superintendent's residence was at last finished, and Deyo and his family were the first occupants. The domestic building (kitchen/bakery/mess hall) was completed, and work on the hospital, for which $50,000 had been appropriated, was begun.

Prisoners built a powerhouse with a 100-foot high smokestack. They also built a shop and trades building, where woodworking, blacksmithing, carpentry, plumbing and steamfitting, tinsmithing, stonecutting, and masonry were taught to ensure a supply of trained inmates to meet the institution's construction and maintenance needs.

Always, inmates were at work on the wall. Judging by the inching progress, local residents must have thought the state was building a second Great Wall of China.

Building the Power House

A dam for a reservoir was built, as was a chapel on the top floor of the central building: the chapel had 1,200 seats and a pipe organ, and would for decades double as an auditorium where "amateur entertainment" and motion pictures were shown. . . .

Some rudimentary progress was made on a school program. A "normal class" was established in 1908 to train inmate teachers. About 150 prisoners were supplied with books for study in their cells, and each inmate was required to attend the "school of letters" one and a quarter hours daily. By 1913, according to official reports, ancient history, civics, geography, ethics, economics, literature, and "current topics" were being taught. . . Deyo died after a short illness in March of 1920. He was succeeded by Dr. Walter N. Thayer, Jr., the institution physician. Within 15 months, Thayer would oversee the closing of the reformatory and its conversion to the world's first institution for "defective delinquents."

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