Spotsylvania Courthouse

Spotsylvania County, Virginia

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Spotsylvania Courthouse is an unincorporated village; it serves as the seat of government for the county.


The Spotsylvania Court House Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Portions of the text below were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]

Village Historic District

Spotsylvania is a mid-19th-to-early 20th-century county seat village in rural Spotsylvania County. At the center of the town is the courthouse square distinguished by a Roman Revival courthouse originally built in 1840. Other mid-19th-century buildings which survived the Civil War battle near the village are the county jail, two churches, and a tavern. The major residences in the town were built between 1895-1905 during a small building boom. Adjacent to the town on its eastern boundary is an open field which connects Spotsylvania with the Confederate cemetery and the Dabney Farm, a rural mid-19th-century building complex containing two of its original outbuildings. Scattered amidst the twenty-five buildings in the district are 20th-century commercial and residential structures anchoring the few intrusions in the district is a 7-Eleven store located on the south side of Route 208.

The Spotsylvania Court House Historic District has achieved fame as the location of the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, one of the most vicious and bloody struggles of the American Civil War. The focal point of the district is the Roman Revival courthouse, completed in 1840 by Malcolm B. Crawford, who worked for Thomas Jefferson as a builder of the University of Virginia. The district also contains four other buildings that were standing at the time of the May 1864 battle between Lee's and Grant's forces, including a ca. 1800 tavern, situated on what was formerly the main road from Richmond to Fredericksburg in the 19th century; two antebellum churches; and a ca. 1840 late Federal farmhouse, the residence from 1850 to 1875 of Spotsylvania County clerk R.C. Dabney and the only house to survive the Spotsylvania battle. Devastated by artillery fire the town did not experience a surge of prosperity until the end of the 19th century, resulting in major repairs and refacing to the courthouse in 1900 and in the construction of a number of substantial frame residences, five of which survive in a well-preserved state. Also lying within the district boundaries is a beautifully landscaped Confederate cemetery, once the battlefield through which ran the main Confederate defense line of earthworks protecting Lee's communications with Richmond.

Located approximately ten miles southwest of Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania is a typical eastern Virginia county seat village. The linear community is situated along Route 208 at its intersection with Route 608. Throughout the 19th century Route 208 served as the major road connecting Richmond and Fredericksburg.

Topographically the area consists of low, rolling, open farmland. Land density is low, with most buildings clustered near the road having open space to their rear. Because the open farmland to the east of the village contributes to its historical and visual setting, the land has been included in the district.

The buildings within the district line both sides of Route 208. Dominating the village is the county courthouse built in 1840 by Malcolm B. Crawford and extensively remodeled in 1901 to cover war damage. The Roman-Revival-style building is fronted by a tetra style portico in the Tuscan order. The structure rests on a shaded square flanked on the east and south by 1930s office and storage buildings. The town's earliest reigning building is a stuccoed, two-story, late 18th-century building which functioned until recently as the jail. The building was moved from an earlier courthouse site to southwest corner of the courthouse square in 1840.

Diagonally across Route 208 is the Spotswood Inn. The ca. 1800 two-story tavern has been enlarged by the addition of a rear ell and a two-level porch supported by massive, somewhat crude, Doric columns that stretch across the facade. South of the courthouse square are two antebellum structures, the Gothic Revival Berea Church constructed in 1856 and the Federal-style Christ Church built in 1841. Located east of the village but within the district is the Dabney Farm, a complex consisting of a brick, two-story, Federal-style house and two 19th-century outbuildings.

Spotsylvania witnessed a small building boom between 1895 and 1905, the period in which the courthouse was remodeled. At that time the J.P.H. Crismond House was constructed. Situated at the southern boundary of the district on the west side of Route 208 the ca. 1904 Queen Anne house has two stories covered by a hipped roof with intersecting gables distinguished by a two-story tower on the south end. A porch with turned posts and delicate filigree brackets extends across the front elevation.

  1. Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff, Spotsylvania Court House Historic District, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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