D.C. Workhouse and Reformatory Historic District
The historic prison from the quad
|Location||Laurel Hill, Virginia|
|Area||511.3 acres (206.9 ha)|
|Architectural style||Colonial Revival, Beaux Arts|
|NRHP Reference #||06000052|
|Added to NRHP||February 16, 2006|
|Designated VLR||December 7, 2005, March 27, 2012|
The Lorton Reformatory, once known as Occoquan Workhouse, was a prison built for the District of Columbia, United States, in 1910 that closed in 2001. It was operated by the District of Columbia Department of Corrections. Lorton was also the site of a bunker used by the government from 1959 to 2001 that housed emergency communications equipment to be used in the event of a war with the Soviet Union.
Plans for the workhouse were ongoing in 1910 with Snowden Ashford as the Municipal Architect responsible for the workhouse while Leon E. Dessez was the special architect who was appointed by the commissioners to draft plans for the new workhouse. It opened in 1916 as a facility for less serious offenders in the Lorton Correctional Complex. It is located in nearby Lorton in southern Fairfax County, Virginia. In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed a special Penal Commission to investigate deplorable conditions of the District of Columbia's jail and workhouse in Washington. As a result, the Commission recommended a complete change in the philosophy and treatment of prisoners in D.C. The United States Congress acted upon this recommendation, and a 1,155-acre (5 km2) tract north of the Occoquan River was purchased in 1910 through condemnation proceedings.
Classically inspired, symmetrical dormitory complexes were constructed instead of cellblocks. The brick buildings were built by the prisoners themselves, using brick manufactured at the on-site kiln complex located on the banks of the Occoquan. It became known in its later years, however, as an outdated and badly overcrowded facility. The last prisoners were removed from Lorton Reformatory late in 2001. As a result of the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997, felons from the District of Columbia began going to Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities.
As a result of the pickets of the women's suffrage movement in the Washington D.C. area, approximately 168 women, most from the National Women's Party, were detained and mistreated at the Medium Security facility from June to December 1917. (This was later dramatized in the 2004 film Iron Jawed Angels.) Some suffragists at the facility were force-fed after they began hunger strikes.  Also, November 14th, 1917, is known as the "Night of Terror" because suffragist prisoners were beaten and abused.
The reformatory had its own railroad, the Lorton and Occoquan Railroad that operated from 1911 to 1977.
Lorton Reformatory also hosted Nike missile site W-64.
On July 15, 2002, Fairfax County received title to the facility. The transfer was enabled by the Lorton Technical Corrections Act passed by Congress in October 1998. It required the county to develop a plan to maximize use of land for open space, parkland or recreation prior to the transfer. Plans for the land the prison occupied can be found at the Fairfax County planning site.
The site has been part of the D.C. Workhouse and Reformatory Historic District since February 16, 2006.
- Chuck Brown
- Lucy Burns
- Petey Greene
- Paula O. Jakobi
- Anne Henrietta Martin
- Alice Paul
- Elizabeth Selden Rogers
- Doris Stevens
- Alison Turnbull Hopkins
In popular culture
Portrayals of events at the Occoquan Workhouse played a key part in the 2004 film Iron Jawed Angels, a film about the history of the National Woman's Party, Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and other members of the 1910s Women's Voting Rights Movement.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
- "In 1997 and 1998, legislation was passed closing it. The last prisoners left in November 2001." A Short History of the D.C. Correctional Complex at Lorton, Workhouse Prison Museum (accessed 19 December, 2013)
- Lorton Occoquan Workhouse Northern Virginia History Notes
- Kovaleski, Serge F. Lorton's Final Lockdown" - The Washington Post - Tuesday November 20, 2001 - B01
- "What Good is a Hunger Strike Today? - Defending Dissent Foundation". Retrieved 18 December 2014.
- "Night of Terror Leads to Women's Vote in 1917". Women's eNews. Retrieved January 8, 2014.
- Historic Context of the Prison p. 3 Retrieved January 17, 2010
- Lower Potomac District Land Use and Development 2007 Edition Amended as of May 4, 2009 pp. 22-60. Retrieved January 17, 2010