A long, linear town, Hamilton originated in a Society of Friends settlement of the 1740s known as Harmony. The Snickers Gap Turnpike came through in the early nineteenth century, but the real period of growth came after the Civil War, when, with the arrival of the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad, Hamilton developed into an important agricultural trading center. From the 1870s onward it also developed as a summer community for Washington, D.C., and many of the larger homes along its main street, the Colonial Highway (Virginia 7) reflect this background. Today it is being rapidly suburbanized. The major period of architectural interest is the post–Civil War boom.
The Gothic Revival–Shingle Style Harmony Methodist Church (1893; education wing, c. 1920; East Colonial Highway, southwest corner of Harmony Road) replaces an earlier structure on the site. Dark rubble fieldstone is combined with light-colored ashlar for the quoins, while shingles appear in the gable ends. The bell tower incongruously contains a small rose window.
The Hamilton Baptist Church (1889, Richard Ruse, builder; East Colonial Highway) owes a debt to Richard Upjohn's Upjohn's Rural Architecture (1852). Ruse, a builder in Waterford, significantly reduced the windows in Upjohn's design, creating diminutive Gothic-arched openings.
Representing the architectural conservatism of the area, the Farmers and Merchants Bank (c. 1890; 1 East Colonial Highway) has a late example of a Second Empire mansard roof, which gives the one-and-one-half-story building a commanding appearance at the town's original center.
The combination Hamilton School and Masonic lodge ( NP9.1) (1872; Richard Ruse, builder; 45 Rodgers Street) is an interesting anomaly that illustrates compliance with the Public School Act, passed in 1872. The Masonic lodge used the top of the building; the school occupied the lowest floor. It is one of the oldest school buildings in the county. A large date stone bears the name of the officers of the lodge presiding at the dedication. The Italianate brackets are the primary ornamentation on this otherwise severe building.