Workhouse, price c. 1948. Courtesy of the Orsinger Collection at the Workhouse Museum.
The Workhouse Prison Museum presents an overview of the history of the D.C. Correctional Facility at Lorton, medical Virginia, including a few of the stories associated with its long history. Minimum security prisoners were first brought to a wooded site purchased by the Federal Government near the Occoquan River in 1910. The original Workhouse was designed to rehabilitate and reform prisoners through fresh air, good food, honest work, and fair treatment.
The prison complex eventually grew in size to more than 3200 acres and included a Penitentiary and Reformatory, a Youth Facility and eventually a ‘Supermax’ building in addition to the original Workhouse. The last prisoner was removed in December 2001 and the prison closed. Much of the property was subsequently purchased by Fairfax County.
One of the most interesting events in the prison’s history took place in 1917 when 72 suffragists who had been arrested for picketing the White House were imprisoned at the Workhouse. The account of their experiences shines a light on a significant, but little known , event in American history.
The museum is located in several studios in the former Workhouse which now houses the Lorton Arts Center. Visitors are welcome free five days a week.
Find out more about the Workhouse Arts Center at www.workhousearts.org.