The town grew up around a landing on the East River, and the buildings spread out along the main road (now Virginia 14). It became the county seat in 1790, when the area was split off from Gloucester County. The courthouse square is a modest but decorous group of structures, common in Virginia. The Mathews County Courthouse (c. 1830), a three-bay facade with a gable roof treated as a pediment, had been dated to 1795, but recent investigation indicates the later date. The courtroom is accessed through the central door. Offices originally occupied the flanking wings. Certainly the structure is conservative, no matter the date, and unique among Virginia's courthouses. Also on the square are the sheriff's office (c. 1795), the clerk's office (c. 1827), a Civil War monument (a sculpture entitled Our Confederate Soldier), and several lawyers' offices.
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