Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Goochland County Court Square consists of the Courthouse, Old Clerk’s office, Stone Jail, Knibb Building, brick wall and monuments to the Civil War and Vietnam soldiers. Together with the expansive lawn, these buildings come together to form a park-like setting missing from modern government complexes.
The 1826 Courthouse dominates the square. Begun in 1826, the Courthouse is a two-story, temple shaped building with a free-standing tetrastyle portico in the Tuscan Order. Flemish and American bond brickwork are used on the body of the building and it is topped with a slate roof. Dabney Cosby and Valentine Parrish built the Courthouse and it remains a fine example of Jeffersonian reform in Virginia Civic Architecture. Cosby had worked for Jefferson on some of the University of Virginia buildings and in turn influenced Parrish in the Jeffersonian style as well. Remarkably, little alteration has been done to the outside of the building. Apart from additions to the back, the building retains most of the original details.
The interior of the Courthouse also remains true in design to the essentials of the Jeffersonian plan. The judge’s bench still occupies a shallow apse, one of the few remaining in Virginia Courthouses. The gallery is a reinterpretation of the Doric order of the Theater of Marcellus in Rome. Resting on two wooden columns, the gallery is accessed by two matching staircases with original balusters that give way to a Chippendale Chinese rail. The upstairs of the Courthouse retains its two jury rooms, now used for storage.
The Old Stone Jail
The Old Stone Jail is thought to have been built between 1823 and 1833 using granite from the construction of the James River and Kanawha Canal. The building was burned during a raid by Union troops in 1865. The iron cells were removed in the 1930’s after which it served many official county uses. In 1980, the building was turned over to the Historical Society for use as an office and museum.
The Old Clerk’s Office (1847)
The Old Clerk’s Office, 1847, was the first official building on the Courthouse Square to house the records of the county. Before this time, Goochland’s records were kept at a building constructed by William Miller (Clerk, 1791-1846) near his home. The exterior of the building is largely untouched by alteration but the interior was modified for use as an office and is currently housing the Historical Society’s museum collection.
The brick wall surrounding the Square was originally built in 1840 to keep grazing cattle out. The wall was modified in 1958 with the construction of additional buildings. Other historic buildings include the 1906 Knibb Building, a brick office building and a storage house behind the Old Clerk’s Office. Two monuments to soldiers have been erected: the Confederate Soldiers Monument (1918) and the Veteran’s Monument (1998).
The James Clopton Knibb Building (1906)
Sadly, the taverns and shops that would have supported this County seat have disappeared, lost to fire and progress, but this area remains an excellent example of an old Virginia Courthouse Square. With its beautiful grouping of buildings, the picturesque Court Square manages to retain its historic nature while continuing to serve in its intended judicial capacity.
Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society