Sockanosset Boys Training School

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Sockanosset Boys Training School
Construction Began 1881
Current Status Closed
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Cranston

The establishment of the Howard Reservation, which includes the Boys Training School, was Rhode Island’s first attempt to provide statewide social services through publicly supported and administered institutions.

In 1866, a state Board of Charities and Corrections was established for the purpose of consolidating into one “state farm” a house of correction, a state asylum for the incurably insane, and a state almshouse. The two-fold goal was to raise standards for the indigent while at the same time lifting this burden from the local towns and cities.

There was a machine shop, a carpenter shop, a printing shop, a mason shop and a blacksmith shop where the boys learned useful trades. The boys also helped construct their own environment, so the elements that compose the structures themselves reflect the philosophy that created and guided the school throughout its history. The bricks, stone and mortar, as well as the woodwork, bear silent testimony to the benefits of honest labor (or hold the ghosts of the past).

The cottages that housed the boys were designed to give them a sense of ordered and structured home life; they were both institutional and domestic at the same time. These handsome cottages, which surround a circular driveway, were built between 1881 and 1895 and combine solid rubblestone walls, brownstone quoins, and arched windows with Stick style porches.

Wholesome recreational activities were provided by the gymnasium (built in 1898). The chapel and its infirmary addition administered the necessary spiritual and physical healing needed by the wayward youth. The current chapel (now minus the infirmary wing, which was destroyed by fire in the 1970s. In some of the photos you can see the ghost of the roofline) was built in 1891 of stone, with a shingled porch. Designed by Stone, Carpenter and Wilson, it is one of the most handsome buildings at the Howard Complex.

The Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission report on Cranston states, “Although in disrepair, the buildings at Sockanosset, beautifully sited on spacious grounds behind a stone wall, are among the finest nineteenth-century institutional buildings in the state.”[1]

Most of the state school buildings have been reused, including the dorms and chapel as part of the development named "Chapel View".


  1. From the Cranston Historic District Commission


Main Image Gallery: Sockanosset Boys Training School Image Gallery