Caperton directs Fairfax County's Laurel Hill project, a years-long effort to redevelop the site of the former Lorton Reformatory, a prison commissioned by Teddy Roosevelt. Construction could start next year, he said.
What is Fairfax doing at Laurel Hill?
The county acquired the overall property in 2001 from the federal government, and that was close to 2,000 acres total. One area of redevelopment is already under way: Lorton Arts Foundation. This area, the penitentiary, represents the second set of buildings we're going to reuse.
Will you tear down the prison?
No. The county intends to reuse as many of the historical buildings as possible. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's going to be a combination of residential, commercial and retail uses. The vast majority of the former reformatory dorms and training buildings will be made into apartments. And we also have some undeveloped land on the site, so we're going to plan for some new townhomes and detached family home construction. And in the penitentiary, the area that is behind the wall will be a combination of commercial and retail use.
Will people want to live in a former prison?
The buildings were built to a very human scale, and they're very well-made. They were built by prisoners with bricks made by prisoners. The reformatory dorms surround a courtyard, and that's a nice green space. So I think if you went there, you would find it very appealing.
Why is this prison historic?
In the early 1900s, the reformatory prison systems were very popular. This was a way for prisoners to work off their sentence through farm work or to actually learn a trade. So it was really part of what we call the Progressive Era, where you just didn't keep prisoners locked up in small cells all day -- you gave them something to do, some fresh air.
- Liz Essley