The Workhouse Prison Museum tells the story of the DC Correctional Facility at Lorton from its opening in 1910 to its closure in 2001. Beginning as a Progressive Era reform experiment the Workhouse was designed to rehabilitate and reform prisoners through fresh air, story good food, medications honest work, and fair treatment. In the 1920’s a Reformatory was built and the Workhouse rebuilt from brick. In the 1930’s a maximum security penitentiary was again built by prisoners from brick they, themselves had made. In 1960 a large Youth Center was added to the the facilities on this 3100 acre plot.
The museum displays photos and objects from every period of the prison’s existence in two studios in Building 9 at the Workhouse Arts Center. A docent is always present to welcome visitors and answer questions.
A special exhibit is devoted to the suffragists who were imprisoned in Occoquan for picketing the White House in support of the right for women to vote in national elections. Here in 1917, 72 women, members of the National Women’s Party, were imprisoned without due process of law, for supporting their beliefs. There is a life-size exhibit showing how women hunger strikers were force fed for this beliefs.
Items of special interest include the ledger in which the names of the suffragists are written along with the crime for which they were arrested, prisoner art, shivs and shanks collected by correctional officers in dormitory searches, and farming and industrial equipment made and used by prisoners.
Information is also provided about the Cold War missile site located on the property.