The development off Silverbrook Road offers a lot to anyone looking for somewhere to live in the suburbs that doesn’t feel too remote—a mix of single-family homes and apartments, nice recreational facilities, and, remarkable for a property so close to I-95, plenty of places to walk. There are townhouses and an apartment complex where one-bedrooms start around $1,700 a month. Soon, it will boast a small shopping center and a church in cool reclaimed buildings. Another 50,000 square feet of commercial space has just been okayed, likely to include a shiny new grocery store.

It’s only if you look closer that you’ll get a sense that this neighborhood is a mite different. Consider the street names: Reformatory Way. Sallyport Street. Or check out that artfully aged metal sign that greets visitors. That’s not a lighthouse in the logo. It’s a guard tower. It turns out that this swath of suburbia was until recently one of the most violent and overcrowded prisons in the United States: Lorton Reformatory, where DC sent its inmates for 91 years.

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Originally published by Andrew Beaujon in Washingtonian.