KSR Tower resized

A crane looms near the historic Kentucky State Reformatory tower roughly one month ago. Officials recently confirmed that the crane was present for a ‘temporary stone stabilization’ project, a departure from plans several years ago to partially demolish the 12-story structure down to its fourth floor.

Highway 146 commuters may have spotted a crane looming by the historic Kentucky State Reformatory (KSR) tower within the past month or so.

Despite initial plans to partially demolish the 12-story tower down to its fourth floor in 2019, a KSR representative confirmed last week that will no longer be the case for the foreseeable future.

Timothy Gordon, Safety Administrator for KSR, briefly addressed the tower’s status during the Oct. 6 Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) meeting at the John Black Community Center.

“To my knowledge, [there are] no plans right now to tear down the tower at KSR,” Gordon said to those gathered.

The Kentucky Department of Corrections (KDR), he continued, has removed and repaired loose limestone from the top portion of the tower.

“That [top column] limestone [was] very porous,” he said. “Over time [it] has loosened and water has penetrated. Any loose limestone has been repaired and they’re wrapping it with a wire mesh to contain it.”

Those architectural concerns date back to at least 2019, when KSR officials told the Era that time had taken its toll on the tower, a fixture for the community and the department since 1938.

Officials announced at the time their plans to demolish the 12-story tower down to its fourth floor due to “structural decomposition.”

“[That decomposition] is causing safety issues as large pieces of the tower were falling off,” KSR spokesperson Kimberly Thompson said in a 2019 interview. “The building also has severe leaks that are causing mold issues…deconstructing it down to its fourth floor was the most efficient and allows us to preserve some of the original architecture and beauty of the tower…”

Katherine Williams, Communications Manager for KDR, confirmed in an email last month that the tower is undergoing a “temporary stone stabilization project” in partnership with the Finance Administration Cabinet’s Division of Engineering and Contact Administration. That anticipated completion date of that project is Dec. 2022, she added.

Williams did confirm in a follow-up email that the tower is undergoing a “temporary stone stabilization project,” but did not directly answer questions about what that entailed, or what, if any, architectural work had been conducted on the tower since the time of the 2019 interview.

Gordon with KSR did confirm that the current work he described at the LEPC meeting is the temporary stone stabilization project.