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Lorton Reformatory

Located in Laurel Hill, Virginia, the Lorton Reformatory, once known as Occoquan Workhouse, was a prison built and operated for the District of Columbia, United States. The initial purchase in 1910 of 1155 acres on the Occoquan River grew eventually to as much as 3500 acres. The first prisoners arrived on site in 1910 and lived in tents until they built and occupied temporary Workhouse buildings using wood from the property. Wooden structures at the Workhouse and Reformatory were replaced in the 1920's and 30's by today's brick facilities. Pursuing a Progressive-Era reform policy, the Workhouse and Reformatory were supposed to “rehabilitate and reform prisoners through fresh air, good food and honest work.” The prison closed in 2001.

Today, the former prison site in northern Virginia is surrounded by valuable suburban neighborhoods. Recently the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to rezone the site and allow redevelopment of the former Lorton prison site, bringing new townhouses, apartments, homes and retail space. When finished, the $188 million overhaul will house residents and businesses inside refurbished cellblocks, guard towers and prison dorms.

My eye has been increasingly attracted to urban decay. Exploring, researching the history, learning what I can from the past, and photographing the relics that remain. Many don't understand the appeal of a subject like this. But, within the aging structures I can still see the vitality of decades past, and a haunting beauty in the rust, crumbing plaster and peeling paint.

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Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Kitchen, Lorton Reformatory
Kitchen, Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Lorton Reformatory
Occoquan Work House, exterior.
"Occoquan Work House, exterior."
Occoquan Work House, sleeping area.
"Occoquan Work House, sleeping area."