Historic Courthouse


In 1800, Fairfax County moved its court to a new building at the point where Little River Turnpike (then being built) would cross the county's main north-south road. The site became known as Fairfax Courthouse.

Construction of turnpike roads linking Alexandria and Washington, D.C. to the Shenandoah Valley increased the activity that centered in Fairfax County's courthouse square when the county court met. Informal markets for farm produce and home handicrafts, trading of horses and other livestock, and transactions of all kinds brought visitors from the surrounding region. On the courthouse grounds, they mingled with others who came merely to exchange news and see friends. In the 19th century, much of the social and economic life of rural Virginia grew up around the monthly or quarterly "court days."

Throughout the Civil War, Fairfax Courthouse stood between the Union and Confederate armies, and was used first by one and then by the other as a patrol checkpoint and signal station. Action began in June 1861 when Union cavalry skirmished with Confederates occupying the grounds. A marker on the present courthouse lawn commemorates the death of Captain John Quincy Marr of the Warrenton Rifles. During the war years, county government was disrupted, although some essential functions were carried on by groups located in both Union and Confederate territory. Regrettably, not all of the court's records were removed to safety during this time, and some were damaged, destroyed, or carried away, and have never been recovered.

In the past century, Fairfax Courthouse has reflected the county's growth. The traditional courthouse square gave way to the addition of new wings to the old 1800 building. These major additions, constructed in 1929 and 1953, extended the courthouse southward to form the present building. For a time, all major county offices were housed in the new courthouse. However, the county's growth soon required expansion of services and utilization of other buildings.

In 1969, a multistory county office building was built immediately southwest of the courthouse, to provide space for the Board of Supervisors and many expanded county offices. Continued expansion of the court's business and need for more space resulted in construction of the Judicial Center, Jennings Building, which has housed the Circuit Court and the General District Court since its completion in 1982. Since 1957, when the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court was established as a separate entity, the Fairfax Courthouse has been its home but for the period from 1965 to 1971.

Excerpts from: The Fairfax County Courthouse-1800, published by the Board of Supervisors in 1977, and The Fairfax County Courthouse, by Ross Netherton and Ruby Waldeck, published in 1977.

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