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Gloucester County Courthouse

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c. 1766. 1894–1895, 1907, 1956. U.S. 17, Gloucester Courthouse

Rural courthouse towns such as this, consisting of the courthouse, a few auxiliary buildings, and perhaps a tavern, are characteristic of eastern Virginia. Wealthy planters of the area formed Gloucester County in 1651 so they would not have to make the trip across the York River to attend court day. The courthouse square, which is actually an oval, is surrounded by a brick wall (1933) modeled after those of the Williamsburg restoration. (Courthouse grounds rarely were enclosed in the colonial period.) The Gloucester County Courthouse retains much of its original form and materials—a rectangular structure with round-headed windows, fine brickwork, and a modillioned cornice. The T-shaped plan is similar to that of the courthouse in Williamsburg. It originally had a central courtroom flanked by two heated jury rooms. In 1907 the plan was reoriented. The removal of the two partition walls allowed for the construction of a larger courtroom. Windows were added to the east and west ends of the building, and a new pedimented Ionic tetrastyle portico was added. Later more modifications and additions were made. Recently (1956, 1974) new and undistinguished courthouse annexes were erected nearby. Also on the square are the usual individual structures: the county clerk's office (now treasurer's office) (1822), in the fireproof materials of the time; debtors' jail (c. 1810); sheriff's office and jail (1873); clerk's office (1896); and Confederate memorial (1889). On the road surrounding the square stand several buildings of interest. To the east is the Gloucester County Office Building (Botetourt Hotel, or John New's Ordinary; c. 1770), a substantial two-story, six-bay brick structure of considerable refinement.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.


What's Nearby


Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Gloucester County Courthouse", [Gloucester, 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, 344-345.

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