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1917 Courthouse

Subfacility of Chesterfield County Historic Courthouse Complex

Documents

Courthouse Area Historic Sites (PDF)

Features

  1. Historical

About the Courthouse

Located on the Courthouse Green, the old courthouse sits where the first colonial courthouse was once located. It is a Virginia Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. It is an excellent example of Greek Revival architecture and the interior courtroom boasts all the original woodwork. The cupola contains the original bell from the 1750 Courthouse.

The historic 1917 Chesterfield County Courthouse stands in a majestic setting along Ironbridge Road (Route 10) where it dominates the Courthouse Green, a national and state-listed historic district. Facing a brick Veterans Memorial Wall and surrounded by 3 other historic buildings, our 1917 Courthouse occupies the footprint of the first Chesterfield County courthouse built in 1749 but demolished in 1916 against the will of local citizenry. This early preservation case was the subject of heated debate between concerned citizens wanting to save their colonial-era courthouse and prominent residents who argued successfully in favor of replacing it with a more imposing structure. The cornerstone of the new courthouse was laid on Oct. 26, 1917 during the annual County Fair, followed by a parade of 100 men drafted to serve in World War I who were encamped in the courthouse yard.

The Chesterfield Historical Society was granted permission to move into the 1917 Courthouse in 1990 where it operated a small research library and opened its first Museum Gift Shop. In 1998, the Society relocated to Castlewood when the 1917 Courthouse reverted to its original use as a court facility.

Tours and Special Events

For security reasons, the 1917 Courthouse does not allow tours or events unless scheduled through the Sheriff's Office. Most events are held in front of the courthouse and the front steps can be utilized. Any event will require coordination with the Sheriff's Office.

The Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia is seeking funding from public and private sources to help finance the costs of preserving the historic 1749 bell, the replacement bell and other expenses for this commemoration.

Donations

If you are interested in contributing, email Megan Kitchen, Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia Executive Manager, or call 804-796-7156.

History

The Historic 1917 Courthouse sits where the first 1749 colonial courthouse was once located. In 1916, plans were made to demolish the 1749 courthouse, and replace it with a larger and more modern building. This decision was met with opposition from some county residents and resulted in the first preservation struggle in the county.

Eventually, the Board of Supervisors voted to construct the new building. Eight short months later, the courthouse opened and the first case was heard. The Chesterfield County courts system still uses this courthouse today to hear cases.

Colonial Revival Architecture

The courthouse is an excellent example of Colonial Revival architecture with four prominent Roman Doric columns and portico, and crowned with an octagonal belfry. The interior woodwork in the courtroom is original. The two-story courtroom contains the original paneled judge’s bench and jury seats. Interior renovations were made in 2013 and the building was rededicated in 2014.

Original 1749 Bell

As part of the centennial celebration, the 1749 bell, which is the oldest historic artifact in Chesterfield County (and 3 years older than the Liberty Bell), was removed from the cupola of the 1917 courthouse. In April, it was cleaned, stabilized, the iron corrosion removed, and then it was coated to preserve it for many years to come.

Commemorative Book

In 2017, Chesterfield County celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Historic 1917 Courthouse. As part of the commemoration, the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia (CHSV) has written a booklet, “Two Centennials – A Commemorative History of the 1917 Courthouse and World War I in Chesterfield County.” Historical information was researched and compiled by George “Buddy” Cranford, and edited by Lies van der Linden-Brusse, both volunteers with the CHSV. Cranford, who retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1981 and currently serves as a board member of the historical society, undertook writing the book to tell the community about the history of the courthouse and about the men from Chesterfield County who were drafted into WWI. The courthouse was a significant location for the WWI draftees. They camped around it while they were waiting for transport to U.S. Army training camps.

Copies of the book are being sold for $10 at the Chesterfield Historical Society’s headquarters, located in the historic Trinity Church. Copies may also be purchased online or by calling 804-796-7121.