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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Occoquan: 1911

Occoquan: 1911

Fairfax County, Virginia, circa 1911. "Occoquan Work House, sleeping area." Part of the jail operated by the District of Columbia Department of Corrections, shown shortly after its construction. Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
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Been there, done that

Spent two nights there with Mr. Chomsky and Mr. Mailer back in '67. Good place to plan the Revolution.


This shot reminds me a lot of these Civil War images. Aside from steam radiators and electric lights, there's not much difference.

More elevated steam

Another photo showing radiators 5 feet or more off the floor. First time I saw this was from another Shorpy picture of an auto repair shop. Only times I have ever seen this.

Outdoor & Indoor Shots?

The more I look at the two photos, the more i think they are two separate buildings. The interior space, height of the windows from the floor ...

[As noted in the captions, the interior shot shows the workhouse dormitory and the outdoor shot shows the workhouse. - Dave]

Really this is is exterior view of same building?

The interior view seems to be of a much wider building. For instance there seems to be space for 4 rows of beds with additional room for 2 wide corridors, one in each of the bays. Also the windows in the interior view seem to start at least 10 or maybe even 11 feet above the floor.

[As noted in the captions, the interior shot shows the workhouse dormitory and the outdoor shot shows the workhouse. - Dave]

I worked there.

I was employed by the Department of Corrections for over ten years starting 1971. The workhouse, at least in those days, was simply the minimum security facility of Lorton Reformatory. The DCDC had five facilities in Lorton, Virginia.

Maximum Security (the Wall, where I ate lunch every day for a dollar), Big Lorton (Central Facilities), the Workhouse (or Occoquan - never actually called Minimum Security).

There was also YC1 and YC2, both Youth Centers. I started as a Correctional Office at YC2, then worked in the Industries Division at Central for 10 years. Many a time I have walked the sweltering underground tunnels connecting YC2 to the steam plant at Occoquan.

Occoquan was where an inmate could hope to graduate to, from Big Lorton, when nearing his parole and escape risk was very low. Inmates at the workhouse could be truck drivers' helpers, or any number of jobs at the facilities, and earned a small salary which would help a lot when paroled.

I could write a book about all that went on in Lorton, and am always thrilled to see old photos.

Here is one of One Tower and the Salleyport at the Wall. It was never called the Citadel.

The exterior

of another part of this charming facility. Click to embiggen.

"Occoquan Work House, exterior." (Harris & Ewing)

The Work House

What exactly was a Work House? Sounds like something out of Charles Dickens.

The well-read inmate

At least one inmate here reads the Washington Post. Today the workhouse is an arts center:

Then and Now

The prison was closed down the 1990s, and the low security dorm shown in this photo has been converted into an center for the arts and a museum -- quite a change!

Love the track lighting

I think it fits the decor.

The beds don't look too comfy

but it's clean, there's heat and lots of natural light. I can think of worse places to be locked up. I'm guessing these guys were minimum security types.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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