Old Lorton Reformatory/Prison Beehive Brick Kiln at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, VA.

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Lorton Reformatory was the prison for Washington DC. It started off as a new model for reforming prisoners through work skills. It was meant to be totally self sufficient, but didn't quite ever achieve that goal. Although in many ways it came close. The prison which was funded by Congress in 1910 and had no bars, fences or walls. People described it as being like a college campus. By the time it closed in 1998 it was a nightmarish hell. The prison was built with bricks made in this and eight other kilns. This one was left standing as a monument to the prisoners efforts. The bricks produced here also were used in many public building that were built in Washington DC.

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Comments (12)

herdintheupstate on July 24, 2012

Very cool. Do you know how old this is?

r.w. dawson on July 24, 2012

Congress allotted money to build Lorton Reformatory in 1910. By 1927 there were nine brick kilns and it was seen as the best example of brick making on the east coast. Somewhere in that time frame the kilns were built. My guess is that they were built early on because the prisoners made the bricks that were used to build the buildings in the prison.

Douglas W. Reynolds,… on July 24, 2012

Very nice picture. Good broodiness level. I like it a lot.

r.w. dawson on July 24, 2012

Thanks Doug.

Adam Elmquist on July 24, 2012

Very picturesque setting could just image was this like back in the day...

r.w. dawson on July 24, 2012

It most likely wasn't picturesque back then. It's amazing what happens when they turn a place into a park.

Douglas W. Reynolds,… on July 24, 2012

I'll swear to that, R.W. I had occasion to visit when I was a social worker--one of our agency's foster kids had somehow run afoul of the law and was being reformed for a while. Lorton was not an ugly place, exactly, but what I still remember were the amazingly high fences crowned with amazingly effective-looking razor wire. The brick kiln I don't remember quite so graphically--so thanks again!

r.w. dawson on July 25, 2012

I agree with you that for the most part Lorton Reformatory was beautifully kept. But I have the feeling that near the brick kilns there wasn't very much grass and it was well worn and beaten down. Most of Lorton was set up for farming and the fields and orchards were stunning. This section was well away from any road, so who knows what it looked like. The site was chosen so they could load the bricks onto barges and move them to DC easily.

Douglas W. Reynolds,… on July 25, 2012

Good idea, of course. Even today a lot of landsmen don't appreciate how much was, and can be, accomplished on the water. By the time of my visit--probably around 1980--you could probably do all that was to be done and never realize there was a brick kiln on the property--unless someone was showing you around.

r.w. dawson on July 25, 2012

They never say how long the brick making activities went on for. By the 90s it was down to just being a dairy.

Haley.Medlen on January 3, 2014

R.W. I was just wondering if you knew what the old buildings by the blue trail were. My husband and I went to Occoquan on Jan 1 and found out that there was a trail and we kept walking and the path we went on wrapped around the blue trail and it also isn't shown on the parks trail map but there are definitely some old buildings back there made of some brick. You can still see the foundation for some of the buildings. And they are small too. We also came across what looked like horse stables and by the end of the trail we found out that apparently we weren't supposed to be back there. I have been trying to find info on it at all but no luck. :\

r.w. dawson on January 3, 2014

Sorry Haley. I have no idea.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on July 23, 2012
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by r.w. dawson
    • Camera: SAMSUNG ES80/SAMSUNG ES81
    • Taken on 2012/07/15 06:35:41
    • Exposure: 0.004s (1/279)
    • Focal Length: 4.90mm
    • F/Stop: f/9.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO80
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash

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