Tag Archives: Old Stone Jail

The Old Stone Jail Restoration Celebration, September 11, 2016!

8 Sep

The Old Stone Jail (1825)

The Goochland County Historical Society will host a ribbon cutting ceremony for the restored Old Stone Jail at the Goochland Courthouse Public Square at 3 p.m. on Sunday, September 11, 2016. This celebration represents the culmination of research, construction and fundraising activity that began two years ago.

The Old Stone Jail has been restored to depict three eras of prison life over its nearly two centuries of existence.


Architectural historian Gibson Worsham, left, and restoration contractor Jim Haskell, right.

This project has been led by the work of architectural historian Gibson Worsham, with the construction phase managed by Goochland contractor Jim Haskell of Sermat Construction Services.

In addition to the ribbon-cutting activity, the Historical Society will unveil the inaugural phase of the Courtyard Green Commemorative Bricks installation.

The public is invited to attend, and tours of the newly restored Old Stone Jail will take place immediately after the ribbon-cutting.


Amazing things are happening in Goochland!

13 Aug
D. Brad Hatch and Jennifer McDonough

D. Brad Hatch and Jennifer McDonough

200-year-old bricks found at the center of the Courthouse columns! Footing for a 20-30 foot high brick wall that surrounded the stone jail was uncovered! Recently, archaeologists D. Brad Hatch and Jennifer McDonough from Dovetail Cultural Resource Group came to the Courthouse Green at the behest of the Historical Society to search for the footings of the wall long thought to have existed around the jail.

Various items found during excavation

Various items found during excavation

The first hole tried showed evidence of the long missing wall and immediately, the archaeologists started bringing things up that had been covered for a century or more. Nail, bits of pottery and ceramic, pieces of glass, chunks of brick and a 1905 Indian head penny.

1905 Indian head penny

1905 Indian head penny

The dig continued as the searchers tried spot after spot searching for more evidence of footings. Starting from the first hole, the pair moved outward, away from the jail and then across the jail yard looking for more evidence. Finally, with a little help from some ground penetrating radar equipment, the remains of the former wall were found in a large enough quantity to establish the size and length. Goochland’s nineteenth century jail wall had been proved to have existed!

The proof of the former wall.

The proof of the former wall.

Most of what is left in the ground is the rubble that was left when the wall was pushed down a century ago. Pieces of brick and cement remain as a testament to the walls that once surrounded jails in Virginia in the 1800’s. Once these structures were deemed no longer of use, most were taken down. The bricks were often used in other structures and what was left was pushed down and covered over as is the case in Goochland. This is just the first step in the upcoming restoration of the Old Stone Jail.

Courthouse column

Courthouse column

A few days after the excavation, workmen came to patch and paint the columns on the front of the historic Courthouse. During the patching, the bricks that make up the interior of the columns were briefly exposed. The is possibly the first time these bricks have seen the light of day in almost 200 years! What will turn up next?

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

Out with the old…

6 Feb

Old Stone Jail

The Old Stone Jail on the Courthouse green has had a long and storied life.  Built in the first half of the 1800’s, burned during the Civil War and damaged in the 2011 earthquake, it has seen better days.  Part of the Society’s agenda for 2013 is placing the restoration of the Jail at the top of our priority list.  For this to happen, the Jail had to be cleared of old exhibits and other clutter that had accumulated over the years.  On a very warm January morning, Wayne Dementi, Andy Donnelly, Steve Fleming, Scott Johnson, Jess Lockhart, Phyllis Silber and Bruce Venter met at the Jail with their resolve steeled and their trucks ready.

Steve Fleming carries away and old exhibit

Steve Fleming carries away and old exhibit

Some of the old displays will be refurbished and placed in a new location.  The canal exhibit will hopefully find a new home in the administration building and some of the other pictures and objects will be put on display in the Society Museum and Gift Shop next to the Courthouse.

The Lock-Keepers House model

The Lock-Keepers House, part of the Canal Exhibit

With the Jail now empty, the restoration process can finally move forward.  Forms must be filled out, grants applied for and bids taken, the process is lengthy and detailed.  The Old Stone Jail has waited many years for a proper rejuvenation and it’s time has finally come.

Goochland County Court Square

14 Nov


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