Lorton is named for a village in the Lake District National Park, Cumbria in England, the hometown of Joseph Plaskett who settled in the area running a general store and opened the Lorton Valley, Virginia Post Office on November 11, 1875.
Before the identity of Lorton, the commercial center was Colchester and the spiritual and historical center of the community around which the leading citizens of the time revolved was Pohick Church.
From the early 20th century until November 2001, Lorton was the site of a District of Columbia correctional facility called the Lorton Reformatory which, among other things, detained approximately 168 women from the women's suffrage movement from the Washington D.C. area from June to December 1917.
A Nike missile site was built at Lorton in 1955, and remained until 1973.
Lorton also is one of the two stations that serves Amtrak's Auto Train which carries passengers and their vehicles non-stop to Sanford, FL, about 30 minutes away from Orlando, FL. The Lorton and Occoquan Railroad once operated between the Lorton Reformatory and Occoquan, Virginia, with connection to the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad.
Historic landmarks include Gunston Hall, George Mason's home, Pohick Church with George Washington's box, Belvoir which was William Fairfax's home, the Market, and now Fort Belvoir Army Corps of Engineer base and Cranford Church. Woodlawn Plantation and Mt. Vernon, George Washington's home on the Potomac River lie just to the north.