The historic Lorton prison is reopening but not to house inmates. The old dormitories on the property have been redeveloped into modern apartment units.
The old reformatory is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been revitalized and rebranded as the Liberty Crest Apartments on Laurel Hill.
The site was commissioned by President Teddy Roosevelt and opened in 1916. By the end of the century, the prison was overcrowded with security problems and horrible conditions. It finally shut down in 2001.
Historian and former prison employee Irma Clifton said, “There was a couple of pretty dangerous riots here. There was one correctional officer murdered here.”
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova said, “There were people who thought this was a nasty area. We should just take these buildings down [and rebuild]. But they’re historic.”
Extensive renovations are now underway, creating residential, commercial and retail space while preserving historic features.
Developer Jack Perkins said, “We owe a debt of gratitude to the original architects who put the large windows in which fills these large spaces with lots of light.”
The developers have also kept in place historic cell block markings and signs that warn inmates against unauthorized visitors and loitering.
“We decided early on to really embrace it,” Perkins said. “To balance what was a former correctional facility with a modern, warm, inviting place to live.”
The developers say about 30% of the 165 rental units have already been claimed.
Resident Kierra Serrano shares a two-bedroom apartment here with her husband and two young children.
“For the space and square footage, I feel I got the best deal possible for this area,” she said.
This article was originally aired on WJLA ABC7 by Mike Carter-Conneen.