Lancaster Industrial School for Girls


The Lancaster Industrial School for Girls is a super interesting abandoned property located along Old Common Road in Lancaster, Massachusetts. On August 26, 1856, it became the first state-run reform school for females in the nation. Separate rooms were provided for each resident in the institution, which was set up as three-story cottages with a kitchen, dining area, and other public amenities on the ground floor, rooms for the girls and a housemother on the second floor, and quarters for teachers on the third floor.

The transition from juvenile detention to a correctional paradigm was made possible by this school. This was made possible in part by the observable advantages of environmental change for kids, the value of education, and the extra pressures of having to deal with the surge in juvenile crime brought on by societal changes of the industrial period.

The school was converted into Massachusetts Correctional Institution – Lancaster after it was shut down in 1975. Men were housed in a minimum security prison at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Lancaster (MCI-Lancaster). The Massachusetts Department of Correction had control over the facility. Budget constraints caused it to close on July 1, 2002. The 70-acre campus has been mostly abandoned since 2002. 

In 1976, the Lancaster Industrial School for Girls’ campus received the honor of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The honor of a place being listed on the National Register of Historic Place is invaluable. It is a recognition of the school’s importance to the nation‘s history, culture, and architecture. There are eighteen historic buildings located throughout the campus which were built in the late 18th century through the early 20th century. Many of these buildings were built prior to the school being established. Additionally, some “cottages” were built for the school to provide places to sleep, eat, cook, and learn. 

Today, the grounds are not open to the public and many of the buildings are completely abandoned. The school buildings and the 70-acre property is officially Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) surplus property. That said, the future of the former Lancaster Industrial School for Girls is still being determined. Some locals believe the school should be transformed into affordable housing while other think it should become a public park with sports fields. Only time will tell what happens with the old school property!



  • Year Established: 1790
  • Year Abandoned: 1975
  • Original Function: The first state reform school for girls in the United States
  • NRHP Number: 76000301
  • Year Registered Historic: 1976


  • Address: Old Common Road
  • Town: Lancaster
  • State: Massachusetts
  • GPS: Lat 42.4431455 Lng -71.6619288
  • Parking notes: Not open to the public so it is best to just pull over on Old Common Road and view all the buildings.
  • Parking directions: N/A
  • Location directions: HERE


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