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Kentucky State Reformatory tower to be partially demolished

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By Amanda Manning

 A portion of the iconic Kentucky State Reformatory (KSR) tower will be demolished, according to prison officials.

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The 12-story tower, a landmark in Oldham County, will be demolished to the fourth floor, according to Kimberly Thompson, a spokesperson for KSR.

Officials say that time has taken its toll on the tower.

“The structural decomposition of the building was causing safety issues as large pieces of the tower were falling off,” Thompson said. “The building also has severe leaks that are causing mold issues.”

A recent inspection determined that the tower is structurally sound from the fourth floor down, according to Thompson.

“Deconstructing it down to the 4th floor was the most efficient and allows us to preserve some of the original architecture and beauty of the tower,” Thompson explained.

The funding to tear down the tower has been approved, but an official date of demolition has not been set yet.

“The staff at Kentucky State Reformatory embrace the changes coming to the iconic Kentucky State Reformatory tower,” Thompson said.  “It has been a fixture for the community and the department since 1938.”    

Famous architect William Strudwick Arrasmith, who is known for his design of Greyhound bus stations, designed the tower.

The design, which was innovative in the 1930s, featured open-wing dorms rather than single cells for each inmate.

"There was liberal space for each man and the design committee believed this would encourage the men to return to the community and lead crime-free lives,” according to the Department of Correction’s website.

“The open wing concept would bring more light into the dormitories creating an uplifting ‘feeling,’” Oldham County Historical Society Executive Director Nancy Stearns Theiss wrote in a column in the Courier Journal.

The 12-story tower was built to house staff offices, a hospital and living quarters for correctional staff, according to the Department of Corrections. All of those rooms are now vacant.

The tower originally housed a 150,000-gallon water tank on the top floor that supplied water to the institution, but it has not been operational for several years.

Thompson said the reformatory plans to operate normally once construction begins while "maintaining safety and security for the institution and public.”

Look for more stories about KSR in upcoming issues of the Oldham Era.