Old Isle of Wight County Courthouse

The Old Isle of Wight County Courthouse, 130 Main Street, Smithfield, Virginia

The Old Isle of Wight County Courthouse, 130 Main Street, Smithfield, Virginia

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

Old Isle of Wight County Courthouse

The Old Isle of Wight County Courthouse was built in 1750. It is located in the historic district of Smithfield. It served the county as its main courthouse until 1800 when a new courthouse was constructed at Isle of Wight, which had become the new the county seat. As both courthouse are in existence today, the original building in Smithfield acquired the name of “The Old County Courthouse”.

Isle of Wight County in the Hampton Roads region was one of the original eight colonies of Virginia. The county was originally called Warrosquyoake after the Native Americans first encountered by Captain John Smith when he crossed the James River from Jamestown. The county was officially formed in 1634 but had already been known as “Warascoyack County” before this. It was renamed as Isle of Wight County in 1637 after the Isle of Wight, the island in the English Channel where many of its early colonists originated from.

Prior to the construction of the building in Smithfield, the courthouse was located at Glebe Farm, about ten miles west of the town. An order dated December 7, 1749, directed that “a Court House, Prison, Stocks, be erected and built on the place called Hoggards”. This move coincided with the renaming of Hoggards and incorporation as the town of Smithfield and its designation as the county seat.

The Old Isle of Wight County Courthouse, 130 Main Street, Smithfield, Virginia

The Old Isle of Wight County Courthouse, 130 Main Street, Smithfield, Virginia

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

The building was designed by John Willis and William Hodsden. It was built by William Rand. The design of the Old Isle of Wight County Courthouse is very similar to those at King William County and Hanover County. All three have the same five-bay arcaded porch covered by a hipped roof. Where this building differed was in the semi-circular apse and conical roof found in many English churches of the period. This feature had been used in earlier courthouses in Norfolk County and Lancaster County, neither of which remain today. It is believed that this design was copied from the south wings of the Colonial Capital in Williamsburg.

In 1812, after the relocation of the courthouse, the Old Isle of Wight County Courthouse was converted into a two-story residence. Restoration by the newly-formed Isle of Wight branch of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (now known as Preservation Virginia) began in 1938. By 1961, the building had been completely restored to its original form. Currently, it serves as a museum for the County.

The Old Isle of Wight County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in September 1970.

The information for this post comes from a second-hand book I was lucky to find on Amazon – Virginia’s Historic Courthouses by John O. and Margaret T. Peters. This book was first published in 1995 by the University Press of Virginia. It talks about 110 courthouses in Virginia’s counties and independent cities.

Summary
Old Isle of Wight County Courthouse
Article Name
Old Isle of Wight County Courthouse
Description
The Old Isle of Wight County Courthouse was built in 1750.  It is located in the historic district of Smithfield.  It served the county as its main courthouse until 1800 when a new courthouse was constructed at Isle of Wight, which had become the new the county seat. 
Author
Publisher Name
Mark Summerfield
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