Community Meeting to Focus on Historic Preservation of Former Prison Site


Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935, FAX 703-324-2010

April 18, 2005


Community Meeting to Focus on
Historic Preservation of Former Prison Site

When President Theodore Roosevelt called for a new prison for the District of Columbia at the beginning of the 20th century, he envisioned a place where inmates could be rehabilitated through a hard day’s work. Rehabilitation, he believed, could be facilitated if prisoners were provided with fresh air, natural light and a place to live and work that would instill a sense of order and responsibility through the design and layout of buildings and space. So with this thinking in mind, the Lorton Reformatory in Fairfax County became more like a campus than a traditional inner-city jail and a model for Progressive-Era correctional facilities.

Now efforts are underway to preserve this historic site. On Saturday, May 14, a community meeting will be held to share information on the process for nominating a portion of the former District of Columbia Department of Corrections site to the National Register of Historic Places. The meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to noon in the cafeteria of Silverbrook Elementary School, 9350 Crosspointe Drive, Lorton, and is sponsored by the Lorton Heritage Society, Fairfax County’s Architectural Review Board and the Fairfax County History Commission. All county residents and friends are welcome to attend.

The proposed historic district encompasses approximately 500 acres of the former prison site, which is now known as Laurel Hill. The entire site, approximately 2,400 acres, was transferred to county ownership in 2002. This property served as the site of the District of Columbia Prison located at Lorton from 1910 to 2001. The proposed historic district includes the rolling Piedmont landscape with traditional farm structures as well as the former reformatory, penitentiary and the Occoquan workhouse, which consists of three separate facilities built in the Colonial Revival style with bricks baked in onsite kilns dating to approximately 1916.

In addition to reflecting Roosevelt’s ideals of the Progressive Era, the Lorton Reformatory also reflects the struggle of the women’s suffragette movement. As a result of the pickets and violence of the women's suffrage movement in the Washington D.C. area, approximately 168 women, most from the National Women's Party, were detained from June to December 1917 at the Medium Security facility that once stood west of Ox Road.

The National Register of Historic Places is a program administered by the National Park Service. Established under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the program honors a historic place by recognizing its importance to its community, state or the nation. Historic places on non-federally owned property within the state are nominated by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. The Department of Historic Resources State Review Board determines which places are appropriate to submit for National Register listing based on a review of detailed documentation pertaining to the historic significance of the site and submitted by the property owner.

Fairfax County and the Fairfax County Park Authority, with the strong support of the Lorton Heritage Society, the Fairfax County’s Architectural Review Board and the Fairfax County History Commission, have taken the step to prepare this documentation and will be submitting the National Register nomination to Virginia Department of Historic Resources during the summer of 2005. Currently, there are five historic districts and 44 individual properties within Fairfax County that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Properties listed include Sully, Huntley and Green Spring owned by the Park Authority, as well as privately owned properties such as Salona, Spring Hill Farm and A. Smith Bowman Distillery. The only county-owned buildings on the register are the courthouse and jail, which were listed in 1974.

The benefits of having properties listed on the National Register include qualification for tax credits useful for offsetting the cost of rehabilitation, eligibility to apply for grants available only to designated properties, recognition of the historic value of a site and a tangible commitment to protect the historically significant features of the property. Fairfax County, the owner of the historic buildings on the site, is committed to adaptively reusing these buildings and ensuring the protection of the site in accordance with a Memorandum of Agreement between the county, the federal government, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the Lorton Heritage Society, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the Fairfax County Park Authority, the Federation of Lorton Communities, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and Fairfax County Public Schools.

For additional information about the community meeting, call Linda Blank, historic preservation planner, Department of Planning and Zoning, at 703-324-1380, TTY 711. Additional information about Laurel Hill is available on the county’s Web site at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/laurelhill.

FAIRFAX COUNTY IS COMMITTED TO A POLICY OF NONDISCRIMINATION IN ALL COUNTY PROGRAMS, SERVICES AND ACTIVITIES AND WILL PROVIDE REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS UPON REQUEST. TO REQUEST SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS, CALL 703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935. PLEASE ALLOW FIVE WORKING DAYS IN ADVANCE OF EVENTS IN ORDER TO MAKE THE NECESSARY ARRANGEMENTS.

 


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