Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fred C. Nelles School, Whittier, Cal.

The Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility was the first school in the California Youth Authority system, and it ceased operation in 2004.  When it opened in 1891 as the Whittier State School, it expressly served juvenile offenders with boys and girls living on site.  A separate girls' school was built in Ventura in 1916.  Canadian Fred C. Nelles was an early superintendent of the school.  During his tenure from 1912 to 1927, he sought to provide humane methods in dealing with the young residents.  In the school's Department of Research, Nelles and his colleagues applied "scientific" methods to analyze and treat the youths in attempting to understand traits and behavior for delinquency.  Their ongoing work was published in their own journal called the Journal of Delinquency starting in 1916.

Now six years since it closed, the state had started and stopped the sale of the 91-acres to potential home developers.  The City of Whittier failed to win a bid for the land.  Some of the buildings on the property are designated historic landmarks.

The letters F-A-C-I-L-I-T-Y have been swiped from the sign.

The Administration building, constructed between 1928-1929.

The Superintendent's residence, built 1919-1920.

A forlorn landscape.


  1. This is a beautiful building and should stay open for the welfare of the children. If I can get some investor's can we reopen it and house children?
    What would it take please let me know?
    Thanks, Marianne Jones/Author

  2. Back in the mid 70s I had a chance to visit Nells. I was a Football team member from Garden Grove High that had played their Team. It was an eye opening experience for some of us back then. Every time I see "The Longest yard" with Burt Reynolds I think of those games.

  3. Could you elaborate on your interaction with the opposing football team? What were the boys' demeanor? Who won?

    1. We played them as a JV Team.Those of us who did not play the Varsity game the night before were relegated to JV. This was done for experience OTJ training.The initial meeting was shock for all of us. We had the impression it was a all boys school like Mater Dei not a reformatory ! We knew something was up when we pulled up to the Main gate. The Bus driver and Coach had to get to tell the guard (?!) to let us in. I can still see the sign that was on the wall by the entrance " No glass containers beyond this point" or something along those lines. We all fell silent at that point we were scared. I recall their Locker Room had all the Locker doors ripped off the hinges. We walked out to the field and we encountered our first Gay couple we ever saw . Remind you we were ignorant OC boys back then. In the Bleachers the wards all wore Blue Jeans and Light Blue Shirts similar to Sailors. Their Team wore old equipment probably 50 60s era with Black Helmets hence the " Longest Yard " reference. Their team formation was rough as I remember they lined up too deep off the line. All in all they were clean players surprisingly to us. They were big and mean and some had beards ! They had no finesse but they made it up in athletic ability. Due to their coaching ( not to knock it but they did not have the resources) we beat them the first time and the general consensus was we let them win the second time. We played them twice as I remember this was around 1975-77. We later came to the conclusion why they were good competitors. It was because it was a privilege for them to play outside teams. There were no fights or dirty hits that I remember, good sports.