Construction of Courthouse Row

As we turn the pages of the calendar and welcome another year — and decade — there is considerable optimism that 2021 will be better than ever for everyone. It just has to be. Let’s have faith that this COVID-19 will disappear for good and we can get our lives back to normal.

With much discussion these recent weeks on the significant Black Kettle Commons proposed development, we turn to Maureen I. Harris’ book, “Washington Virginia, a History 1735-2018,” to read about the previous large-scaled construction project in the Town of Washington — two centuries ago!

As in construction of the Rappahannock County Courthouse, Court Clerk’s Office and Jail from 1833-1836.

Before the courthouse was constructed, court sessions were held in the Free Meeting House on Lot 6. Daniel Mason, Alexander Spilman, and William J. Menefee were authorized to spend $25 to repair the building to accommodate the court meetings. This frame building was demolished in 1904.

On 2 April 1833, the Rappahannock County Court justices appointed William A. Lane, Daniel Mason and Henry R. Meneff as commissioners to form a plan for the dimensions and construction of the public buildings for the county. 

Their report described the dimensions and arrangement of and the materials needed to build the courthouse, the court clerk’s office, and the jail and the jailor’s house, with estimations for the cost of building these structures. 

For the courthouse and clerk’s office, the three commissioners had originally believed that a courthouse similar to that in Culpeper would be appropriate, with a detached clerk’s office. 

However, they subsequently believed that this would be too expensive and they suggested a plan similar to that used in Luray in Page County, which was 40-feet square with an attached office measuring 20 feet by 15 feet at each of the front ends of the building.

An arcade 10 feet in width would extend along the whole 80-foot frontage of the building. The jail and courthouse were to be constructed of brick, with stone foundations 18 inches above ground and slate roofs. The cost of the courthouse and clerk’s office was estimated to be $5,000. They recommended that a bell not be housed in a cupola because of the cost.

Some of the commissioners’ recommendations for the courthouse were obviously not followed, since the courthouse was constructed during 1834 as a separate building from the clerk’s office and no arcade was built. 

However, a cupola was built on the top of the building to house a bell.

On May 6, 1833, William Lane, Daniel Mason, Henry R. Menefee, William Slaughter, and Gabriel Parks were appointed as commissioners “for the purpose of contracting for and superintending the erection of the public buildings of this county.” 

An obscure item in the minutes of the January 1835 meeting of the Rappahannock County Court justices, who were administering the new county government, stated that “$1500 is levied as the third and last payment” to Malcolm F. Crawford for construction of the courthouse and adjacent Court Clerk’s office. 

January birthdays

Birthday wishes for the month of January go out to Ron Maxwell (Jan. 5), Lindsay Sonnett (Jan. 6), Eileen Yilmaz (Jan. 6), Ben Pierson (Jan. 8), Andre Lang (Jan. 9), Hans Gerhard (Jan. 9), Mike Guiffre (Jan. 9), Colleen O’Bryant (Jan. 11), Beverly Exline (Jan. 12), Karyl Bailey (Jan. 15), Jeffrey Benson (Jan. 16), Cheri Woodard (Jan. 16), Samantha Jo Schwar (Jan. 16), Carl Henrickson (Jan. 18), Danny Huff (Jan. 18), Cliff Miller IV (Jan. 21), Marianne Clyde (Jan. 25), Ronda Gregorio (Jan. 27), Kim Nelson (Jan. 28), Lisbeth Sabol (Jan. 29), Bob Ryan (Jan 30), Aron Weisgerber (Jan. 31), and to a special person, my mother-in-law, Anna Clatterbuck, who will celebrate her day on Jan. 19 in heaven.

I also have two grandchildren who will be celebrating their birthdays in January. Olivia Grace Clatterbuck will be turning 7 on Jan. 10, and Lukas Jonathan Clinton Clatterbuck will be turning 8 on Jan. 26. Wow, does time fly. It seems like yesterday my own kids were that small and running around. Now, my kids have kids who are running around and bringing joy to their parents.

On another positive note, there are only 75 more days to go until it’s officially spring!

Until next week keep smiling and stay safe!


Recommended for you