Evolution of a Landscape - Plantation, Prison, Park

Evolution of a Landscape - Plantation, Prison, Park (HMESM)

Location: Lorton, VA 22079 Fairfax County
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 42.539', W 77° 14.328'

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Preserved Spaces - Protecting and Influencing Communities

Evolution of a Landscape - Plantation, Prison, Park

It may be difficult to imagine all of the events, large and small, that took place on the surrounding landscape, but Laurel Hill Park has been influenced by thousands of years of human history. The earliest inhabitants of this area were Native Americans who crafted stone tools out of local quartz and hunted, fished, and gathered edible plants for food. European settlement of the area began in the mid-1700s. After the Revolutionary War, Major William Lindsay built a plantation between Giles Run and Pohick Creek. His plantation, named Laurel Hill, was cultivated by enslaved African Americans for nearly forty years.

In the early part of the 20th century, several hunderd acres of land were purchased for the District of Columbia Workhouse. This Progressive-era workhouse and reformatory was designed to "rehabilitate and reform prisoners through fresh air, good food and honest work." Early prisoners at the Occoquan Workhouse included a number of suffragist arrested in 1917 for picketing the White House in support of the right of women to vote. The ensuing decades saw the transition of the workhouse and reformatory to a walled penitentiary. During the Cold War, the site was chosen for the first and largest NIKE missile installation.

Throughout time, the correctional complex was supported by agricultural fields, extensive industrial operations, and a railroad - all operated and maintained by inmates.

On July 15, 2002, Fairfax County received title to portions of the former D.C. Correctional Facility at Lorton. This transfer was made possible through the Lorton Technical Corrections Act, passed by Congress in October 1998, which required the county to develop a Reuse Plan that would "maximize use of land for open space, park land, or recreation." Although this site has been referred to as "Lorton" for most of the 20th century, this site is now referred to as "Laurel Hill" in commemoration of the Lindsay family home and plantation.

Protecting and preserving this park offers future generations access to these unique cultuarl and natural resources; its dedication is one more event in Laurel Hill's long history.

Preserved Spaces - Protecting and Influencing Communities

The landscape of Laurel Hill Park has been greatly influenced by its plant, animal, and human inhabitants over thousands of years. The first inhabitants of the region were Native Americans who hunted for game, fished, and gathered abundant plant resources beginning more than ten thousand years ago. Just after the United States won its independence, William Lindsay used the land as a small plantation. Later, inmates at the Lorton Workhouse cultivated, lumbered, and quarried the land to produce their own food, as well as building materials for their living and work spaces.

Though urban sprawl surrounds the 1200-acre Laurel Hill Park, a rich diveristy of plant and animal species has persisted over time and can be viewed by park visitors. Tucked safely within the park's boundaries are a variety of habitants including old field thickets, meadows, the Giles Run stream and the steep-sided riparian forest that surrounds it. Plant and animal species have once again become the primary inhabitants, reclaiming land that has been modified through human occupation and cultivation.

Animals that call Laurel Hill home include wild turkey, gray and flying squirrels, mice, bats, snakes, fox, coyotes, and a wide variety of songbirds. Among the plant species you might encounter here are chestnut oak, hickory, maple, beech, hornbeam, viburnum, blackberry, goldenrods, bottlebrush grass, and wild rye. The presence of these habitats and the species that inhabit them allows the visitor to imagine what the landscape might have looked like in the past and enjoy the knowlede that it will continue to be preserved as parkland in the future.
Year Placed2007
Placed ByFairfax County Park Authority
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Monday, October 27th, 2014 at 10:49am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 305335 N 4286862
Decimal Degrees38.70898333, -77.23880000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 42.539', W 77° 14.328'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 42' 32.34" N, 77° 14' 19.68" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)703
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 6652-6730 White Orchid Yellow Daisy, Lorton VA 22079, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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