Workhouse Arts Center’s Founding Angel

Irma Clifton

Irma Clifton (March 28, 1942 – August 30, 2019) was a founding angel of the Workhouse Arts Center.  She wrote many articles for area publications and for this website.  In October 2019, we at the Workhouse celebrated Irma Clifton’s life and work by installing a plaque on our primary administrative building, W-16, honoring her legacy.  Below is the text from the plaque.  To the right are eight articles written by Irma.

In deepest appreciation of the determined and unrelenting Irma Clifton, an extraordinary friend of the Workhouse Arts Center and guardian of the powerful 91-year history of the Lorton Correctional complex, a history that first changed a nation and then the world.

Irma was born, raised, and lived the majority of her adult life in Lorton, Virginia.  She worked for nearly 26 years on his very site at what was once Washington DC’s prison, and later she served as historian and museum docent for the region and Fairfax County.

Irma fought tirelessly to preserve and protect the historical and architectural integrity of the site when it closed in 2001.  She pursued her vision for an adaptive reuse of the prison’s land and many structures, successfully lobbying legislators, donors, and the Fairfax County Architectural Review Board, and she was instrumental in acquiring a National Historic Register designation for the Laurel Hill property on which the prison was located.

Irma played an integral role in guiding the transformation of the site from abandoned prison to vibrant arts center, even single-handedly creating the Workhouse Prison Museum using her own collection.  She was a founding member of the Lorton Arts Foundation, served as a key member of he Workhouse Museum and History Committee, and was a long time President of the Lorton Heritage Society.

Irma’s warm heart and passionate dedication to the history and culture of the site, to Fairfax County, and to the preservation of the Laurel Hill Property were vital to the creation of the Workhouse Arts Center.

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