Officially known as the D.C. Workhouse and Reformatory Historic District, the 511-acre former Lorton Prison complex, located in southern Fairfax County, encompasses the primary buildings and agricultural and industrial grounds that comprised this penal institution established in the early 20th century after the District of Columbia purchased the property for a workhouse to rehabilitate prisoners through a program of industrial production and vocational training. The workhouse, erected in 1910, was designed for prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes and serving short sentences; the reformatory, established in 1914, was for prisoners with longer sentences. Originally both the workhouse and reformatory were run as open institutions with no bars or walls. However, when overcrowding of federal penitentiaries led to the placement of more serious offenders in the reformatory during the late 1920s, it resulted in the construction of a walled penitentiary in 1930. The entire prison complex embodies the social ideals of Progressive-era penal reform, which sought to rehabilitate prisoners through such activities as raising crops, tending livestock and orchards, and operating a dairy farm and a kiln that produced bricks for the facility, among other endeavors that offset the prison’s financial costs and provided education and training. The Lorton site is also important for its association with the women’s suffrage movement: In 1917, suffragists were imprisoned at the complex’s Occoquan Workhouse by D.C. police for picketing the White House.
The D.C. Workhouse and Reformatory Historic District National Register registration form was amended in 2012 to correct errors, to incorporate additional information found through research and additional studies, and to update conditions in the district that had changed since the 2005 nomination was drafted.
[Additional Documentation Accepted, NRHP: 3/27/2012]
Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark
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