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Maximum security prison building in Lorton converted to new child care center

Buildings that once housed inmates are instead being used to care for infants and toddlers.

This past weekend, Brynmor Early Education & Preschool (9060 Power House Road) held a grand opening in Liberty Market, a redevelopment within what was once Lorton Reformatory.

“The center will begin operations October 16, eventually welcoming up to 156 children into two historic buildings that once served as maximum-security units at the heart of the old prison complex,” a release from Brynmor said. “In place of the cell blocks are whimsical, light-filled rooms for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. A courtyard between units now boasts a grassy play area with a cement tricycle racetrack, climbing logs, and a ‘mud kitchen.'”

The new facility brings much-needed new childcare to Northern Virginia as part of a development that also includes apartments and retail.

Until 2001, the facility was a prison built in 1916 and notable for its role in women’s suffrage, a chapter in history detailed by the Lucy Burns Museum that opened in early 2020.

Between 1917 and 1919, a group of women called the Silent Sentinels protested outside the White House. Many of them, including Alice Paul, were arrested and taken to the Lorton prison. They were beaten and subjected to force-feeding, acts which drew national attention to their cause.

Now, the prison has been transformed into the Workhouse Arts Center and Liberty Market, a shopping/dining destination with 352 new residential units. At the center of that new development, Brynmor Early Education & Preschool will be offering classes for children from 6 weeks old through 5 years old.

The school was founded by CEO Rhian Evans Allvin, who previously led the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). She says her goal is for Brynmor’s flagship facility to give the youngest children the “developmental start they need to thrive in life.”

“I am pleased to welcome Brynmor to Liberty to provide much needed child care within this new community,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said in a release. “This is a great day for our youngest Lorton residents.”

Over at the Workhouse Arts Campus (9518 Workhouse Way), more former prison buildings are being refurbished, with a second location for Fairfax’s Bunnyman Brewing slated to open in one of them.

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