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Brandon Training School: The Impact of Dorm Life on Interpersonal Relationships

Early Aerial Photograph of the Brandon Training School

Early Aerial Photo

Here is an early photograph of the campus. The campus is still relatively small, not that many buildings and surrounded by trees and forested areas. Right in the center of the photograph is the administration building. It's the largest, nicest building on the campus. It is the epicenter of life at BTS. Everything begins there, who is admitted, where are they placed, what care and privileges are they given, all decided by the administration.

Site plan for the Brandon Training School campus, as of 1980.

1980 Site Plan

This is the site plan from 1980. Buildings were added on as needed, such as more dorms and the summer camp. Documents from the administration outline past uses of the buildings, which changed over time as the needs of the school and the residents changed. 

Outline of Proposed Long-Term Building Program for Brandon Training School from the Committee for Mental Health Meeting 1946

1946 Long-Term Building Use Plan

In 1946 Frederick Thorne, the superintendent, wanted to expand the school, so a survey of the school and it’s current capacity was done. These are buildings he proposed for the future of the school. Based on the 1980 campus map, not all of these buildings were built. A document from the 1950s (see below) shows that while new buildings were built, they didn’t follow this proposed plan of use. This means that even though Thorne was an eugenist, it was not his idea to keep the more “desirable” residents toward the center of campus. Additionally, dorm B is unsafe due to fire hazards, yet it is still being used at the time of this document, even though the administration knows it is unsafe.

Dorm Uses and Dimensions Dorm Uses and Dimensions

Documents Showing the Sizes and Uses of Each Building

This document from the 1950s shows the uses of each dorm. It includes the size of each of each building, details specific room sizes and their uses. Each sleeping room has 35 beds in it (except for D which has fewer since it has smaller rooms). This means that residents have no personal space, no place to call their own or have a private moment in. Additionally, the dorms with the "high grade" residents have the largest sleeping areas but the same number of beds. They have more personal space, more space to be individuals. Because they are seen as "trainable" and "educable", they are seen as more human, more worthy of rights and dignity.

For Christmas and Birthdays at Brandon Training School For Christmas and Birthdays at Brandon Training School For Christmas and Birthdays at Brandon Training School For Christmas and Birthdays at Brandon Training School For Christmas and Birthdays at Brandon Training School

A description of what the administration thinks the residents would like as gifts. 

This document was made in the 1950s as parents and others got more involved with the daily life of inmates. The residents in each dorm are same as above. Throughout these descriptions, views of each type of resident are revealed. The gifts described are generic based on gender and perceived mental age. They do no specify what any individual might want, instead clumping them all together even though they vary in age, ability, and personality within each dorm. The residents are not seen as individuals, not even by those who seem to care the most for them. Gift givers are assured that even the "low grade" residents are able to enjoy things. "High grade" residents are described as individualistic, just waiting to leave the school and this is portrayed as a negative quality. Yet, they are being there held against their will. It makes sense that they are counting down the days until they leave. Additionally, they may not want to make as many personal connections as they know they will leave and don't want to be tied to the place. For those who are at BTS for life, the others in the dorm are their family, they need those personal connections. They are also packed closer together than those who will eventually leave. Everything they do is directly related to other residents, so of course they built community and relationships. 

Annotated Map of the Campus

1980 Site Plan with Dorms Use from 1950s Added

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