The Big House

Speaker: Steve Renzi

Suitable for Schools · Grades 9–12

The New Castle County Workhouse, opened in 1901, was called “The Big House” and it has a fascinating history that includes its creation as a reform institution, the lynching of George White in 1903 and the hiring of the first women prison guards in the United States, nicknamed “The Annie Oakleys.” The workhouse also conducted a unique, decade-long experiment during the 1920s based on an “Honor System” where the guards were unarmed, and the inmates literally had the keys and ran the penitentiary. Finally, there was Delcastle farm, an over 600-acre farm run with inmate labor.  This presentation tells the story of the Big House.