Charlottesville, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Historic Courthouse Square
This building, in continuous use as a courthouse for over 200 years, is one of America’s most historic. No other courthouse has been used by three early American Presidents at the same time, The original wood frame courthouse was erected on a two-acre lot in 1762 when the city was founded by Dr. Thomas Walker. Here local elections were held and the County Court conducted business with the help of young attorneys and magistrates such as Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. These men along with James Madison later became Presidents and could at times be seen here together.
After a stirring patriotic sermon by Rev. Charles Clay on a public Fast Day in 1774 the freeholders of Albemarle County met here and made a resolution to the Virginia House of Burgesses that called for a boycott of trade with England and for a meeting of a Continental Congress. When the British attacked Richmond in the summer of 1781 the Virginia General Assembly made Charlottesville its temporary emergency capital and met here for deliberations,
The courthouse was also a place of worship and Jefferson himself helped organize an independent congregation led by Rev. Clay beginning in 1777 called the Calvinistical Reformed Church. A member of this church, Col John Harvie, introduced Jefferson’s famous Bill for Religious Freedom to the Virginia legislature that same year. Many years later Jefferson called the courthouse the “common temple” and proudly spoke of its use each Sunday by four Protestant denominations in turn.
The square was enclosed with a railing in 1792 and a second building of brick was built in place of the wooden structure in 1803 and now forms the north wing to your right. It faced a public square with taverns and shops behind you (on today’s Park Street). A whipping post, stocks, pillory and a stone jail stood on this public square that also was the commercial center of the town. The south wing of this courthouse, which is located behind this display was built in 1860 in the Gothic Revival style and was modified to its current appearance in the 1930’s as part of an extensive renovation. This work restored the Colonial features of the original building and remodeled
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Colonial Era • War, US Revolutionary. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #04 James Madison, and the Former U.S. Presidents: #05 James Monroe series lists. A significant historical year for this entry is 1762.
Location. 38° 1.894′ N, 78° 28.641′ W. Marker is in Charlottesville, Virginia. Marker is on Park Street north of East Market Street, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Charlottesville VA 22902, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Albemarle County Court House (here, next to this marker); A Bicentennial Tribute (here, next to this marker); Albemarle County (a few steps from this marker); Lynching in America / Lynching of John Henry James (a few steps from this marker); Site of Old Swan Tavern (a few steps from this marker); Mercantile Business (within shouting distance of this marker); Monticello (within shouting distance of this marker); Jack Jouett’s Ride (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Charlottesville.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 28, 2021. It was originally submitted on June 6, 2009, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 2,038 times since then and 54 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on June 6, 2009, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. 2. submitted on April 4, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on June 7, 2009, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.