HFFI is thrilled to be one of the Renwick’s biggest fans and hope you’ll join us in advocating for the high-quality preservation work it deserves!

Of Interest to Our Young People and Students

This Gothic and Romanesque Revival courthouse was designed by famed architect James Renwick, Jr., in 1852. The style is rare in Fredericksburg, and this building is one of only a few government buildings constructed in the Gothic or Romanesque Revival styles in the United States.  Renwick is famous for designing the Castle Building at the Smithsonian Institute and Renwick Art Gallery in Washington , D.C., as well as St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, among many private, public, parochial and collegial buildings across America.

I. What historical activities and cases took place in the Renwick?

If you went to court in Fredericksburg in the decades from 1840 to 2010, what important cases might you see in each decade?        

Why would there be trials in this courthouse for runaway adults?  Research the history of the Freedmen in the mid nineteenth century.

Look up the history of secession in Virginia.

Which famous people spoke in the Renwick courthouse through the years ? 

What do you think is the most important decision ever made in the Renwick courthouse?

Further Exploration: Educational activities about our courthouse can teach children about our form of government. Check out these distance learning resources from the United States Courts!

II.  Learn more about the building

To learn more about architecture principles: Glossary of Architecture Terms

How are architectural styles different for churches, courthouses, inns, etc.?

Research what other noted  buildings James Renwick designed.

Draw the Courthouse from the outside. Draw an outline of the shape of the  Renwick building.

How is it different from surrounding buildings? Compare the form of the Renwick Courthouse with other buildings in Fredericksburg, in other cities, and with other buildings created by Renwick.

Check other famous American architects.  Why was a first-rate architect important for historical buildings and how do architects affect the architecture of modern buildings?

What styles of architecture do you prefer?

Why does the Renwick Courtroom have the kind of ceiling it has? How is the ceiling different from the What do we see at the Which of the following buildings have similar ceilings?  Show photos or drawings.

Are there other buildings in Fredericksburg which have ceilings like this? Are there other courthouses with such ceilings? When were the first buttresses of this time first used in the world?

South Attic Scissor Truss Detail (Green et al. 2016).
Original Renwick section drawing of the courthouse.
Section drawing dating from 1940 rehabilitation when second floor was inserted into the Courtroom (Green et al 2016).

Do the early courtrooms look like the Renwick courtroom? Why do you think the courtrooms were arranged this way? Where do jurors sit? Why were juries frequently seated on the side?

Where did lawyers, judges, witnesses, and  observers sit or stand? Were  observers allowed at all times? What restrictions were made?

Learn more…