Lorton is a small census-designated place (CDP) located in southern Fairfax County, Virginia. It has a modest population, just below 19,000 as of the 2010 census. Like many communities in the area, Lorton has an interesting history behind it. It is bordered to the west by Laurel Hill, to the north by Newington, to the east by Fort Belvoir, to the southeast by Mason Neck, and to the southwest by Woodbridge in Prince William County. It has an area of 5.4 square miles.
Named for the English village of Lorton in the Lake District National Park, Cumbria, the CDP was initially settled by one of the original Lorton’s residents - Joseph Plaskett. Plaskett established a general store and a post office under the name of Lorton Valley on November 11, 1875. Before it came to be known by its current name, Lorton was considered part of the community of Colchester. The axis around which Colchester revolved was Pohick Church, notable in history for having had George Washington and George Mason as members of its vestry.
For nearly a century, Lorton was the site of the Lorton Reformatory, a correctional facility best known for having detained 168 Washington, D.C.-area suffragettes from June until December of 1917. The Reformatory closed its doors in November 2001. Just before the 2010 census the land surrounding the Reformatory was re-assigned to the Laurel Hill CDP, thereby cutting into the population of Lorton, which was not large to start with.
Commute-wise, Lorton citizens have several options. U.S. Route 1 (Richmond Highway) and Interstate 95 wend their way through Lorton, leading northeast 15 miles to Alexandria and 19 miles to Washington, D.C., and south 34 miles to Fredericksburg. It is close enough to the Capital that many residents commute by car or by rail. For those looking to go further, Lorton is one of the two stations that serves Amtrak's Auto Train which ferries both travelers and their cars non-stop to Sanford, Florida, a city located in the Orlando metro area. The Lorton and Occoquan Railroad formerly ran between the Lorton Reformatory and Occoquan, with connection to the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad.
Lorton is ripe with historical landmarks. These include the home of George Mason, Gunston Hall, Belvoir, which was William Fairfax's residence; the Market; and now the Fort Belvoir Army Corps of Engineers base and Cranford Church. It is also nearby to other significant landmarks in the greater Fairfax area: Woodlawn Plantation and Mount Vernon, the latter being George Washington's home on the Potomac River, lie farther to the east.
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