Fredericksburg City Beat

This blog includes news about City Hall, city schools and other 22401 news.

Pamela Gould reports on City Hall. You can reach her at 540-735-1972 or Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or

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Fredericksburg builds extravagant courthouse for $14,000

In 1852, we could have written that headline. Today–in your dreams.

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park Historian John Hennessy has an interesting post up at the Parks Service’s “Mysteries and Conundrums” blog about Fredericksburg’s historic circuit courthouse, designed by James Renwick.

Hennessy’s close-up work with an 1864 photograph of wounded Union soldiers outside of the courthouse when it was being used as a hospital during the Civil War is worth the click over there, but he also reviews some of the building’s colorful history. That includes the controversy over the $14,000 price tag before it was built, and the many different uses the building had before it was even 15 years old.

We ran a story on the building’s history three years ago. If you’ve followed the City Council’s deliberations over the building in recent years, you’ll notice that not much of what is going on today is new.

As it has at many times in the past, Fredericksburg now has some work to do to make sure its court facilities continue to meet the needs of a 21st century criminal justice system (a tall order for a 22,000-person, 10-square-mile city in the middle of a much larger region positioned on a major interstate highway). Hennessy puts it this way:

“As for conundrums, that relating to the courthouse is not ours, but the community’s. The place … just doesn’t meet the needs of a modern court operation, so the city is actively considering other sites. What the future use of the courthouse building might be is very much open to question.”

The City Council’s latest plan to upgrade its court facilities involves demolishing the downtown fire station and building a complex to house all three city courts on that block of Princess Anne Street, using the existing General District court building for some of that space. Price tag: close to $40 million.

The next step in that plan is buying land for a new downtown fire station, which will need to be built before the current one can be demolished.

The capital budget on which the City Council will seek public comment tomorrow night includes $750,000 next year for that land purchase. The city would need to borrow that money. This is about the only major step in the courts plan that is anticipated in the next budget year, but as we know from experience, things can change swiftly on this front.

(I’ve added a link to “Mysteries and Conundrums” to the blogroll at the bottom right of this blog so you can keep up with it.)