The Historic Fredericksburg Foundation Inc. will hold a series of three lectures in celebration of the city’s historic Renwick Courthouse beginning this Sunday.
The talks will be held from 2–4 p.m. this Sunday, Aug. 25 and Sept. 8 in the courtroom on the second floor of the courthouse at 701 Princess Anne St., and will be free and open to the public.
Renowned architect James Renwick designed the 1852 Gothic Revival courthouse, which was vacated when the city opened the new Circuit Courthouse down the street in 2014. City Council has made finding a reuse for the buildings a priority.
HFFI board member and local historian Barbra Anderson will kick off the series by giving an overview of the nearly 300-year history of Fredericksburg’s courthouse complex, which includes the former Wallace Library and a former jail. The audience will have a chance to tour the courthouse after hearing her discuss some of the conflicts, court cases, and colorful events that took place there.
A high school history teacher for nearly 20 years, Anderson also coordinates events at HFFI and researches such topics as tunnels, prohibition, shopping and floods.
On Aug. 25, National Park Service historians Noel Harrison and Eric Mink will discuss how the courthouse was turned into a Confederate barracks in 1861 and used by Union forces as a hospital after the Battle of Fredericksburg and the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse.
Mink is a graduate of what is now the University of Mary Washington, where he received a bachelor’s degree in historic preservation and American studies. For the past 25 years, he has worked on Civil War battlefields in Virginia and Pennsylvania. He currently serves as the cultural resource specialist for the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Harrison, also a UMW graduate, has worked in a variety of history and historic preservation positions in the Fredericksburg area.
On Sept. 8, Richard Guy Wilson, the Commonwealth Professor of Architectural History at the University of Virginia, will examine the courthouse in the context of Renwick’s career and legacy. Renwick designed some of the most famous buildings in America, including the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, and many other noted religious and public buildings. The Encyclopedia of American Architecture calls him “one of the most successful American architects of his time.”
Wilson’s specialty is the architecture, design and art of the 18th to the 20th century both in America and abroad. He has been the curator and author for several major museum exhibitions, and is a frequent lecturer at universities and the author or co-author of 16 books that deal with American and modern architecture.