Many were broken, many were saved here.
Beloit's name became synonymous with its girls' reformatory, one of the longest-operating in the country, which for more than a century mirrored the most enlightened reforms but also the cruelest horrors of such places. Now, at its closing, residents and staff members are wrestling with the contradictions.
Beloit was where "bad girls" were sent: That's what Diane Roles had heard as a child. A friend's sister had gone there.
Growing up in the 1960s, Roles endured a seriously dysfunctional family - a chronically violent father and a fearful mother. People didn't talk much about child abuse then, and young Diane's solution was to run away from home to escape beatings.
Once, she said, her father kicked her with his steel-toed boot, leaving her jaw swollen. Another time, her bruised legs prompted a girlfriend's mother and a neighbor to call her family. But nothing changed.
"I got to the place where I didn't even cry anymore," she said. "The more they hit me, the more I laughed."
Her older sister complained to their mother that she had been molested. Roles said her mother slapped the sister, saying, "What am I supposed to do?"
The offense that landed Roles in the juvenile court system was taking her brother's car for a joy ride. After fleeing a foster home, she was offered placement in a "trade school," and she grabbed it.
It wasn't until the frightened 13-year-old was riding across the wind-swept prairie of rural north-central Kansas that it dawned on her the school was Beloit. "I mean to tell you my heart dropped clear down to my toes," she said.
But looking back now, she sees it differently. "Going to Beloit was a safe haven for me," she said. "Basically, I was an abused kid. Back in them days they didn't do anything. They shook their heads."
There is no barbed wire - no fence at all - surrounding the complex of limestone and brick buildings that came to be known as Beloit Juvenile Correctional Facility. Across the street is the high school for the shrinking, agricultural town of 3,600. Its two-block long downtown, filled with charming century-old buildings, is less than a mile away.
The institution, right down to its rural setting, is typical of the ones that began opening in the middle part of the 19th century as rehabilitation-focused reformers sought to end the practice of housing juveniles alongside adults in deplorable conditions.
The Women's Christian Temperance Union, a suffragist group that had fought for prohibition, lobbied for the girls' facility in Kansas, soliciting donations of land and money and operating it for its first couple of years before the state took it over in 1890. As was common at the time, girls as young as 8 spent long days toiling in the gardens and caring for the animals that supplied their food. For a time, girls were even indentured to farm families.
But with the high-minded ideals of the reformers, there was a dark side as well, explained Ned Loughran, executive director of the Council for Juvenile Correctional Administrators, in Braintree, Mass.
"These kids were an eyesore for the upper classes of society," he said. "The solution wasn't to change the conditions they were growing up in, the poverty and lack of parental supervision. The view was to get them out of sight. Then people forgot they were there, and abuses crept into the system."
Abuses? Under some administrations, girls were punished with huge doses of vomit- and diarrhea-inducing castor oil,humiliated with forced hair clipping. In the darkest period, dozens underwent involuntary sterilizations.
"It totally infuriates me," said Katrina Pollet, pausing at a box of yellowed photos from years gone by as staff sorted and packed up late this summer. The last superintendent, she's passionate about helping the girls who've left Beloit for good.
"It's so important to me because I could have easily been here," said Pollet, who was herself once a pregnant 16-year-old high-school dropout.
As school records, some in musty leather-bound books, were sorted and stored, the mundane details they contain sketched life at Beloit and the shifting attitudes it reflected.
From the 1930s, a file for one girl described her as "incorrigible" and noted she "associated with Mexican men" and "became intoxicated at dances."
The offense for another young charge was listed as being "immoral (with father)." Later in the record, it shows the girl was taken for removal of venereal warts. It was common practice for much of the facility's history to lock up young abuse victims rather than their abusers.
Both girls spent about four years at Beloit.
All the records detail whether the girls had attended Sunday school. "Yes" is the answer for most.
When the reformatory was founded, girls "were really viewed in our society much more as property," said J. Russell Jennings, commissioner of the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority. "And the expectation for behavior of girls and what occurred with them when they didn't meet those expectations really provided an open door for young girls to be institutionalized for non-crime events. Not even running away but just kind of being a pain in the neck."
The treatment they received varied, as it was not uncommon in the early days for entire staffs to change after elections. Some administrations taught the girls to play musical instruments and barred corporal punishment, while others relied on draconian forms of discipline.
The most infamous superintendent was Lula Coyner, whose cruelty caused the girls to march to the sheriff's office and demand an investigation.
In 1935 and 1936, Coyner undertook a campaign of forced sterilization after becoming enamored with an international movement known as eugenics, a philosophy also popular among the Nazis that sought to prevent those deemed mentally disabled or otherwise genetically inferior from having children.