The Thunder Ridge High School better known as the Natural Bridge Juvenile Correctional Center and Thunder Ridge Detention Center is at 74 Learning Center Loop, in the unincorporated community of Natural Bridge Station, skirting along the Jefferson National Forest, in Rockbridge County, Virginia.
Encompassed by Elk Creek and East Fork Elk Creek, the Natural Bridge Correctional Center resides on a large 99 acre facility. This detention center was built on the grounds of a Great Depression era civilian conservation corps camp. It opened in 1964, and has been catering to juvenile delinquents until its closure in 2010. Mandatory work skills offered here included : masonry, carpentry, auto mechanics, welding, wood working, building maintenance and more. Styled like a military camp, there were three barracks and even a training course in the back past the baseball field (as seen in photograph 1).
The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is in place to help troubled youth turn into contributing members of society. The governor at the time, Tim Kaine, was introducing massive statewide budget cuts. This ambitious goal to transform the DJJ included closing several detention centers and merging them into the larger complexes. Allowing tax payers to get more bang for their buck, 68 jobs were cut and $1.2 Million USD was saved per year by closing this facility alone.
At Thunder Ridge High School, the last classes were listed for the summer of 2009. Generally, this complex catered to 50 to 70 students at a time. Grades ranged from 8th through 12th.
Ages of the youth were between 14 and 20 and many were up to 3 grades behind. 69 offenders were absorbed into other complexes when Natural Bridge Detention Center closed.
This was the least restrictive detention centers in Virginia. Only the best of the best would be allowed to come here. The facility offered work release programs including : paid on-site work, the ability to go to the nearby Dabney-Lancaster Community College and work release programs. Natural Bridge Detention Center was for those who truly wanted a way out of the lifestyle they had formerly been living.
In 1973, Camp New Hope opened in the South Eastern section of the property. Nestled safely in the woods behind the correctional center; 3 little cabins, a kitchen, enclosed pavilion, restrooms and trails remain. It was part of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. Most campers did not even realize that the correctional facility was less than a quarter mile away.
Right now it is listed for sale by the Divaris Real Estate group. The price? $1,115,000 USD. Dubbed as For Sale Special Use with the ability to be put on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. Stating that the uses are many for the 31 buildings and 35 acres of cleared land including : a retreat facility, possible campground, school and more. The Department of Historic Resources claim that there may even be intact archaeological sites on the undeveloped spots.
Where is the abandoned juvenile detention center located? You cfind it with these coordinates? 37.585324, -79.508754.
Photographs by Abandoned Playgrounds.