History of the Former Lorton Prison

prison_old_picAt the beginning of the 20th Century, President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned the purchase of a large tract of land in Virginia for the creation of a workhouse for Washington, DC’s non-violent criminals. Roosevelt’s progressive era vision was to provide prisoners with fresh air, natural light and structured, purposeful work as the basis for their rehabilitation.Agricultural operations began at the Workhouse in 1912 and the prisoners created a brick plant where they produced bricks to construct the permanent buildings.

At the same time, the Women’s Division of the Workhouse was established west of the Men’s Workhouse. The Women’s Division is known for having held approximately 168 women, most from the National Women's Party, for picketing in front of the White House for women’s voting rights. Lucy Burns, who, along with Alice Paul, founded the National Women’s Party, was one of the women incarcerated in the Women’s Division of the Workhouse.

Over the years the workhouse-style correction facility became a medium security prison, and watch towers, cells and wired fences were installed. By the 1980’s, overcrowding had become an issue and the buildings were in a state of severe disrepair. In 1997, DC prison officials were ordered to begin transferring prisoners from the Lorton facility in preparation for its closing after more than 80 years of operation.

In July 2002, Fairfax County received the title to the land that included the former Workhouse. The transfer of the land to the county was made possible through the Lorton Technical Corrections Act. This act required that the county develop an adaptive re-use plan for the land and the former prison facilities.  Approximately ____acres has been designated to construct of comprehensive equestrian facility.

How You Can Help

The Laurel Hill Equestrian Center is a unique public/private funding venture between Fairfax County Parks and local horse groups.

You can help make the Center a reality with a donation. Donations are tax-deductible and can be made through the Clifton Horse Society and Fairfax4Horses. Both are 501c3 charitable organizations.

For more information or to make a donation, visit our "How You Can Help" Page, or the following sites: