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Fairfax County Courthouse

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1799–1800, James Wren; James Bogue and Mungo Dykes, builders. 1928, addition, William I. Deming. 1953, addition, Robert A. Willgoos and Dwight Chase. 1964–1967, restoration of original courthouse, James Macomber. 4000 Chain Bridge Rd.
  • Fairfax County Courthouse (Virginia Division of Historic Resources)

Fairfax County's third courthouse, a two-story building designed in a temple-front format with an arcade at ground level, can be read in a number of ways. Wren may have been combining the arcade common to pre-Revolutionary Virginia courthouses with the new interest in temples evidenced in the Virginia State Capitol. Of importance is that the courthouse predates Jefferson's employment of the format for some of the pavilions at the University of Virginia (Jefferson's workmen would use this form for their own courthouse projects). But the form may also relate to the English town hall, a model that was certainly available to Wren through publications. Any resemblance to the English town hall, however, stops at the front door, for instead of the arrangement of a great room on the upper floor with market stalls beneath, the courtroom takes up the entire ground floor and the jury rooms are over the piazza.

Military action in the area during the Civil War destroyed the interior, and as the Alexandria Gazette reported, “Nothing remains … but the walls and roof.” Repairs were made. William J. Deming, a noted Washington Colonial Revival architect, expanded the courthouse in 1928 by adding a wing and duplicating the original structure on the exterior. The next addition, in the 1950s, followed this format, though with a longer wing that contained a new main entrance, so that four identical pavilions are lined up. On the interior of the last addition is a mural (1954, Esther L. Stewart) that depicts the county's heroes and architectural treasures. James Macomber, of the Colonial Williamsburg staff, using evidence from other period courthouses, restored the original courthouse section in the 1960s.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.


What's Nearby


Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Fairfax County Courthouse", [Fairfax, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Richard Guy Wilson and contributors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 67-68.

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