Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls

From Asylum Projects
Jump to: navigation, search
Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls
Established 1911
Opened 1915
Closed 2005
Current Status Closed
Building Style Cottage Plan
Architect(s) Merrill C. Lee
Location Hanover, VA
Alternate Names
  • Janie Porter Barrett School for Girls
  • Barrett Learning Center
  • Barrett Juvenile Correctional Center


Janie Porter Barrett, founder of the Locust Street Settlement in Hampton, Virginia, was the driving force in establishing in 1915 The Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls. The school was started with 28 girls on donated property in Peak’s Turnout, Hanover County, a barren parcel of land noted mainly as a battle site during the Civil War. The Virginia State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs donated the land on which the school was developed and continued to be an important source of support for the school.

The residents of the Industrial School were, for the most part, delinquent or dependent African-American girls sentenced to prison by local judges and then paroled to the school. There were no foster homes for colored girls who needed care and jail or prison was the only alternative. It is reported that several of the girls were “feeble minded” and a few arrived with contagious diseases. Regardless of the circumstances, the goal of the school was to teach self-direction and character building with the expectation that, when ready, a girl could be “paroled” to a private family in the Richmond area and work for normal wages.

As noted in the school’s 2nd Annual Report of The Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls — 1917, the girls learned about and became engaged in routines of work, play, and religious activities. Among the work activities were the ordinary tasks of living in a rural setting: truck gardening, raising pigs, chickens and other animals. Housework skills such as laundry, ironing and dressmaking were also taught. Play activities focused on games, folk dancing, baseball and the celebration of holidays. Religious services in the early days rotated between an Episcopal and a Baptist service conducted by volunteer ministers.

Janie Porter Barrett retired in 1940 and died in 1948. In 1942, responsibility for the Industrial School was assumed by the Virginia Department of Welfare and Institutions. In 1950, Barrett’s training school was renamed the Janie Porter Barrett School for Girls. It became racially integrated in 1965, became coed in 1977, and then served an exclusively male population from 1978 until its closure in 2005. Since 2007, the Barrett Juvenile Correctional Center has been mothballed by the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice.