Arkansas Boys Industrial School

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Arkansas Boys Industrial School
Established 1905
Opened 1917
Closed 1994
Current Status Preserved
Building Style Single Building
Location Pine Bluff, AR
Alternate Names
  • Boys Industrial School of the State of Arkansas
  • Arkansas Boys' Reform School
  • Pine Bluff Youth Services Center
  • Arkansas Training School for Boys


On April 25, 1905, Governor Davis approved an act providing for the establishment of a “State Reform School, for the discipline, education, employment and reformation of convicts under the age of eighteen years.” Act 199 provided for white and black students, both male and female, housed in separate quarters. This first reform school was located approximately ten miles west of what were then the Little Rock city limits. Because the location was difficult for farming and sited in dense timber growth, this initial location proved unsatisfactory. In 1915 Julia Houston, the first probation officer from Pine Bluff, presented a bill to have the students moved. At first the proposal was vetoed, but later it was approved by Governor Brough. In 1917, Act 67 of the legislature changed the name of the institution to “Boys Industrial School of the State of Arkansas.” The governor appointed a board whose first responsibility was to acquire a new site.

Captain Geisreiter of Pine Bluff donated 160 acres of land and the citizens of Pine Bluff raised $5,466, some of which was used to purchase 80 adjoining acres. The Act of 1917 provided $5,000 for the purchase of land. The surplus of this amount was used for a building fund. Simple cottages were erected and a detachment of boys was sent to the site to begin clearing the land and cultivating. According to an article in the Graphic, a former Pine Bluff newspaper, on October 26, 1917, the first buildings at the school were temporary frame board and batten structures. Forty additional acres of land were purchased on April 13, 1918, for $1,400. This provided the high ground on which to build the new buildings. In 1919, the legislature appropriated $98,000 for a vast building program and a plan was made for a complex of permanent structures, which included three cottages for boys, a building for the superintendent, a dining hall and a gymnasium. The administration building was also to serve as the superintendent's residence.

The Legislative Acts of Arkansas, Act 723 of 1923, allocated $125,000 for building expenditures. The Julia Houston Cottage, Tom C. McRae Cottage, a trades building, hospital and additional small cottages were erected. None of these structures remain. By 1935 the Boys Industrial School consisted of a total of 360 acres, the present size of what is now called the Pine Bluff Youth Services Center. No major building programs took place until the 1950s. The Youth Services Center is now a facility for the care and treatment of delinquent youth, males ages 13-18.