Second Courthouse

Ten years later, in 1791, a second courthouse was built on Court Square. The first courthouse had apparently been damaged by fire because records indicate that it was “unfit for business.” The justices decided to repair the damage and court was held temporarily in the home of Andrew Shanklin.

Market Street originally extended straight through the middle of Court Square in an east-west direction. The second court building was located near the middle of the square but on the north side of Market Street “near the Maypole.” It was a two-story structure, 26 by 32 feet, built of stone by Brewer Reeves, a tavern keeper in Harrisonburg. Each story had 9 windows. The first floor windows had 18 lights each. Those on the second floor had 15 lights. The ground floor was 13 feet high, and the second story was 9 feet high. The stone building was roofed with wooden shingles “clear of sapp wood 6 inches to the weather” that were painted Spanish brown. The cornice around the eaves was painted white.

In October 1791, John Rush, Charles McClain, Henry Ewin, John Hopkins, and John Boyd, who had been appointed to examine the Courthouse and pass judgment on the job, presented their findings to court. The report included mention “that neither the painting at present nor the mason work in the East gavel [gable] end from the square up is sufficient.” Brewer Reeves made the repairs deemed necessary by that December, but the justices from around the county were requested to assemble on Court Day in February to see what was needed in order to complete the Courthouse. At that meeting it was reported that Reeves had completed the painting in a “workmanlike manner Agreeable to the Contract of undertaking.” In March 1792, Reeves was paid £116, 2s as part of his “allowance” for building the Courthouse.

In September 1792, court minutes indicate that additional work on the Courthouse was needed to complete the project. Andrew Shanklin was given permission and £45 to buy materials and finish the job. In June of 1793, however, court officials were still not completely satisfied that the Courthouse had been finished properly.

The original log courthouse on the square was still used for several years, but in 1799 the court ordered that the old structure be sold at auction and removed from courthouse square.

*Excerpt from Dale MacAllister’s Courthouse Square in Early Harrisonburg and Activities Connected with Court Days.