Spotsylvania Courthouse in Spotsylvania County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Modification, Decay & Preservation
Spotsylvania Court House National Historic District
Most public buildings rarely survive in their original state. The County jail is no exception. By 1876, County records indicate the cells on the upper floor being used for some other purpose. The jail report stated this use cut off ventilation to the prisoners who were housed in now damp cells on the first floor. The Commissioners ordered the second floor restored. By 1881, a report indicated the stove and piping were in dangerous condition. A set of stairs were constructed to allow the second story to be used as office space for the County treasurer, and the exterior needed to be painted. At some point in this time frame, the spiral steps were removed.
Well through the 1920's and 1930's improvements and upkeep continued. In 1930, plumbing and electricity were added to the jail. Prior to 1936, windows were added to the rear first floor. In 1943, the jail closed for being a "fire menace," ending 90 years of service. The security bars in the windows were removed and donated to the World War II scrap metal drive. By 1946, the upper floor of the jail was leased to the Rural Telephone Company for a short time, and then used as storage
A group of local citizens formed the Spotsylvania Preservation Foundation in 1998 and restored the jail to its present configuration today.
[Captions:] The jail as it appears today. The sign above the door reads "No talking to prisoners allowed under penalty of law." Research indicates the sign was present in 1920.
The jail had a slate roof, brick corbeled cornices, and a heavy plank door with an interior iron door as originally built. A heavy iron grid separated the two floors for added security. The 1930's photograph (left) shows the presence of iron stars at either end. Popularly called "Earthquake Stars," they are used to stabilize the walls of older brick buildings. The stucco covering the building today was added in the 1970's.
Massachusetts photographer W. H. Tipton took this photograph (right) of Mary D. Waller and Jennie E. Boggs. The young women were indicted in 1886 for housebreaking, grand larceny and felonious assault. They were sentenced twice: first for three years in the State Penitentiary, which was overruled. The second time they were sentenced
After nearly two years, on March 6, 1888, the young women walked freely from the Spotsylvania County Jail.
Erected by Spotsylvania County Museum, County of Spotsylvania, Virginia.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Architecture • Law Enforcement • Notable Buildings • Women. In addition, it is included in the Virginia, Spotsylvania County Museum series list. A significant historical date for this entry is March 6, 1888.
Location. 38° 12.051′ N, 77° 35.34′ W. Marker is in Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia, in Spotsylvania County. Marker is on Courthouse Road (Route 208) just west of Judicial Center Lane (County Road 631), on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 8960 Courthouse Road, Spotsylvania VA 22553, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A Case of Negligence (here, next to this marker); An Old Jail...A New Home (within shouting distance of this marker); A Final Journey (within shouting distance of this marker); Turning the Pages of Time (within shouting distance of this marker); Fisticuffs on the Courthouse Lawn and other Political Drama (within shouting distance of this marker); Legend, Lore and Fact (within shouting distance of this marker); Lee’s Headquarters (within shouting distance of this marker); Amid Shot and Shell (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Spotsylvania Courthouse.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 19, 2020. It was originally submitted on April 19, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 100 times since then and 26 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on April 19, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.