Theses Master's

Criteria for the Adaptation of 19th Century Facilities of Care, Treatment, and Incarceration in America

Libassi, Isabella

This thesis assesses the adaptability of mid-19th century masonry correctional and care facilities in America, looking at the unique constraints posed by the existing structures. It is the limitations of the existing building which present the greatest challenge in their adaptive reuse, typically leading many of these facilities to be left vacant or demolished.

This thesis points to small unit size, low ceiling heights, circulation, structural systems, as well as walls and finishes as the primary challenges posed by the existing facilities. It analyzes four adapted facilities – the Allegheny County Jail, Charles Street Jail, Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, and Traverse City State Hospital – using them as case studies and establishing a hierarchy of adaptation priorities. This hierarchy is then applied to the vacant Western State Penitentiary and the Ohio State Reformatory, which currently operates as a site museum.

This thesis reasons that by recognizing the typical challenges posed by treatment and correctional facilities and applying the developed hierarchy for adaptation – established by looking at the four case studies – these facilities can be repurposed more efficiently, preserving more of the original historic structure.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Prudon, Theodorus H.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
May 29, 2024