What should the future hold for Fredericksburg’s historic Renwick Courthouse, along with the nearby Wallace Library and old city jail?
City officials will hold a public forum on the adaptive reuse of the buildings Thursday, Nov. 7 in the courthouse, at 815 Princess Anne St. A tour of all three buildings will begin at 6:15 p.m. in the courtyard in front of the Wallace Library, which is located at the corner of Princess Anne and George streets. There will be a presentation of an economic feasibility study, followed by a discussion, in the courthouse at 7 p.m.
The feasibility study was funded by a $25,000 grant the city and Fredericksburg VA Main Street Inc. received from the Virginia Main Street organization, which is part of Virginia’s Department of Housing and Community Development. Suggestions included renovating the complex as a boutique hotel and restaurant.
The forum will feature a presentation by the consultant hired to conduct the study.
The Historic Fredericksburg Foundation recently held a three-part lecture series on the Renwick Courthouse to bring renewed attention to the building, which has largely been vacant since Fredericksburg’s new courthouse opened in 2014.
“From a preservation perspective, less intensive uses are preferred for heirlooms of this order. And many would say that we could not find a better place to serve as our Visitor Center to showcase the history of our community and the historic architecture that shapes it,” Danae Peckler, an architectural historian and a member of HFFI’s board of directors, wrote in a commentary that appeared in the Oct. 18 edition of The Free Lance–Star.”
The Renwick Courthouse was designed by James Renwick Jr. and built between 1851 and 1852 on the site of an earlier courthouse where James Monroe and John Marshall had practiced law. Renwick later designed “The Castle” of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.
The courthouse has played an important role in the city’s history over the years. It was the place where the town voted to approve Virginia’s secession from the Union, and later served as a Confederate barracks, a hospital after the Battle of Fredericksburg, and as housing for newly escaped slaves. Years later, it was where the local Freedman’s Bureau Court met, as did Shiloh Baptist Church before it divided into the “Old” and “New” sites.