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Hi.

Welcome! This is the place I write about Things I Notice in my daily walkabouts as well as what I might think about things in my world.

From Dangerous Prison To Innovative, Modern Community

A friend and I had an incredible opportunity to visit Lorton Prison, a facility that has been closed for 15+ years. For many decades, Lorton had been operated by the District of Columbia to house some of their worst criminals. Originally, Lorton was a workhouse and in fact maintained that part of their legacy through most of its years. The Lorton campus contained over 3,000 acres and included crop fields, animal pastures, slaughterhouses, training centers, power plants, and...several prisoner compounds.  Extraordinary violence, overcrowding, corruption, breakouts and more led Congress to mandate that D.C. close Lorton no later than December 2001. Lorton closed and eventually Fairfax County bought a majority of the property.  In 2008, a portion of the prison campus was converted to the Workhouse Art Center  leaving left two major sections of the campus unoccupied...two that I've always wondered about. Back in 2008, when the Workhouse Art Center opened, I took photos of Lorton Prison, one of the training centers, and the tower around the maximum security section of the prison. (Those photos are on an old, no longer updated site of mine.) I very much wanted to see behind the wall and to climb one of the old watch towers.A few weeks ago, I was driving by the wall (which had remained virtually unchanged for years) and saw that part of it had been torn down. Time was running out to get a view of this historic facility so I wrote our county Supervisors to see if any kind of access was possible. Supervisor Storck's office kindly responded and arranged a visit to the facility where we met the Project Coordinator and Security Officer. Wearing our steel toed boots & hard hats and after a safety overview, off we went (led by them, we were never "alone" in the facility) to Liberty Crest Laurel Hill Reuse Project.  The first phase has been underway for a year and is really shaping up. This phase builds apartments, civic centers, and a church from the old administrative buildings, chapel, and prisoner barracks in the "medium" security part of the campus. Several of the apartments are nearing completion. The apartments have incredible "character," many use the original brick walls, some still have iron barred internal (decorative) doors, some use the original iron framed windows. No apartment is like another. The chapel is the old chapel. The community park is the old ball diamond where Frank Sinatra played for the prisoners in 1965.Phase II will begin sometime in the future, I'm not sure when. Phase II is mostly "in the wall" part of the campus, where the most vicious criminals were housed. Although this was where the worst were kept, this was not the worst part of the prison. The worst part of the prison was in the Medium security part because the facilities were open barracks where the prisoners essentially had the run of the place. Imagine 50-100 people sleeping on beds and bunks in large open bays. That's a place where I would never want to be. We went into the walled area...it was quiet. No construction, no noise (the wall, you know), no people or anything. The wall is probably 25-30 feet high but it's been cut down from its original 60 foot height. We went into the chow hall, the kitchen, the admin building, two of the individual cell blocks, and one guard tower. All fascinating. All sort of creepy. All really exciting. The county is doing an outstanding job, the concept is innovative; the project includes public and private components. I am providing a copy of my photos to the project coordinator in hopes they will help preserve a little of the history and the progress of this amazing place.The first shot is taken through a window from one of the guard towers. On the right side of the wall is are prisoner barracks inside of the maximum security compound. On the left side is one of the old prison buildings under renovation and a new pathway through the grounds. The compound is closed to the general public so the most you can normally see is just the outside of the wall. The second shot is one of the cell blocks.  The third is an exercise room in a cell block.Looking out the tower of Lorton Maximum Secuity Lorton Maximum Security Cell BlockLorton Exercise Room Maximum Security Cell Block 

Lorton Prison

And then...