Pendleton Reformatory construction continued in 1924

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By Dan Fountain | For The Times-Post

Part 2 of a two-part series.

In early 1924, with building of the Pendleton Reformatory in its second year, Superintendent Andrew F. Miles and the Board of Trustees saw that the construction was too costly, so it was decided to cancel the contracts with the general contractors and the architect.

Miles formed a new plan and proceeded with the construction work using inmate labor — which had been used for some of the work already — instead of paid contract labor.

The inmates were formed into organized classes of work and were placed under the leadership and direction of outside craftsmen. Those classifications were: Bricklaying, Carpentering, plastering, plumbing, roofing, electrical work, steelwork, sheet metal work, painting, cell building and concrete. The quarry located on reformatory grounds was used to extract material to help build the prison. Interesting fact: This quarry at one time was the emergency secondary source of water for the reformatory and the town of Ingalls.

From this point several buildings were constructed under Miles’ new plan.

Some of these buildings were the kitchen, dining room, storeroom, cold storage and bakery. The cellhouses, G and H, were almost done after the contractors left; the inmate labor continued to finish what was left.
Several buildings were built after 1924, such as the furniture factories, mattress factory, high school, outside dormitory, gymnasium, O-dorm, administrative segregation and several more.
The reformatory in Pendleton is 100 years old with thousands of stories from staff and inmates.
Some stories are sad or funny but in many cases neither.
In the past 100 years we’ve seen, in 1924, America’s public enemy No. 1 John Herbert Dillinger Jr. arrive at the reformatory. And in 1977, Anthony “Tony” George Kiritsis who wired the shotgun trigger to the neck of Richard Hall and walked around Indianapolis on live TV. He was sent to the reformatory as a safe keeper.

Photos of notorious gangster John Dillinger, who served time at Pendleton Correctional Facility, displayed in the facility’s historical room.

Scott Slade | The Times-Post

In the past 100 years, we’ve also seen news helicopters showing smoke from the buildings from riots, and staff and inmates leaving the facility in ambulances.
So many people who worked there have come and gone, but the bricks still remain the same from the first day they were placed there 100 years ago.
The legacy of the first Superintendent, George A. H. Shideler, and his assistant and successor, A. F. Miles, shall live on, as they were the first administrators who oversaw the construction of the reformatory in Pendleton in 1923.
On Sept. 15, 1923, the Indiana Reformatory in Pendleton was officially dedicated with a ceremony. However, it wasn’t until Nov. 17, 1923, that Gov. Warren T. McCray issued a proclamation about the new reformatory.
A brass plate was placed on the wall just inside the front doors of the facility. To this day, this plate remains on the wall and continues to be polished by inmate workers.
Other interesting facts of the Indiana Reformatory over the past 100 years
There are 30.79 acres of land inside the wall
Brazil Brick Co. from Brazil, Indiana, supplied three million bricks
The first issue of the Reflector (inmate newspaper) was in October 1923
The chapel was built 1928-29 and also used for movies, boxing and other indoor recreation, along with it being a church for the prison.
Basil Wisehart, 33, who was hired by the reformatory as a bricklayer from Wilkinson, Indiana, was killed by a train in Pendleton on Saturday, Aug. 4, 1923.
Total acreage back in 1923 was 1,842 acres
The first female superintendent hired at the reformatory was Zettie Cotton
Most of the wire and pipes run through about 2,160 feet of tunnels
The powerhouse smokestack that used to be seen from miles away was 183 feet tall
The concrete wall is about 27 feet above the grade line and a depth from 10 feet to 25 feet below the grade, depending on the contour of the ground
The wall top was four feet wide, and officers used to walk on it with no safety rails
The wall cost about $101,077
Cost of the reformatory was about $3,300,000
On March 15, 1932, the inmate population was 2,599
Superintendent George A. H. Shideler was well known in Grant County as a general manager of Flint Glass Co. He later was a stockholder and elected secretary of the company. He was also the superintendent of the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City and was elected to the Indiana state legislature.
In 1996 the Indiana General Assembly changed the name of the Indiana Reformatory to Pendleton Correctional Facility.
As the reformatory in Pendleton observes its 100th anniversary, this column represents just some of the history of the building and how it began.
Dan Fountain is a retired counselor from Pendleton Correctional Facility, where he worked for 34 years until 2016. He and his wife, Kathie, live in Middletown, where he is president of Middletown Fall Creek Township Historical Society and a member of Middletown Town Council. He has been working on a book about the history of Pendleton Correctional Facility for several years, hoping to get it published in 2024. The two-part series here is comprised of excerpts from his manuscript.

Dan Fountain is a retired counselor from Pendleton Correctional Facility, where he worked for 34 years until 2016. He and his wife, Kathie, live in Middletown, where he is president of Middletown Fall Creek Township Historical Society and a member of Middletown Town Council. He has been working on a book about the history of Pendleton Correctional Facility for several years, hoping to get it published in 2024. The two-part series here is comprised of excerpts from his manuscript.