Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory - Virginia
Courthouse Felling dates: Winter 1765/6 37.415036, -76.529453
Botetourt Hotel, Felling dates: Summer 1800 and Winter 1800/1801
Debtors Prison Felling dates: Spring 1823 and Winter 1823/4
The Gloucester County Courthouse is one of a dozen eighteenth-century courthouses that survive in Virginia. Like most public buildings of the late colonial period, the walls are laid in Flemish bond with glazed headers and compass-headed windows accentuated with gauged-and-rubbed work. Originally, the plan of this T-shaped building consisted of a central courtroom flanked on both sides by small, heated jury rooms. An advertisement in the Virginia Gazette in the spring of 1766 noted that magistrates would accept the lowest bid for the construction of a new courthouse on April 22nd, coinciding nicely with the tree-ring dates of winter 1765/6. The Botetourt Hotel is a large, two-storey brick tavern over 150 ft long and including a piazza along its entire front elevation. Built on three levels, service activities took place in the basement, whilst the ground floor included a taproom and dining rooms as well as the private accommodation for the tavern keeper. The upper floor included a large assembly room as well as a series of private rooms. Although there was a brick tavern advertised in the 1770s, the roof timbers have consistently given felling dates between summer 1800 through the winter of 1801/2. This would suggest that either the roof, or the entire tavern, has been re-built. No colonial Virginia prisons have survived and the one at Gloucester is among the earliest of a handful of structures that date from the beginning of the nineteenth century. It is a small, one-room building located near the colonial courthouse on court circle. The exterior of this heated prison consists of brick walls laid in Flemish bond on the front and 1:5 “American” bond on the back and sides. It has oak sleepers, ceiling joists, and studs that are laid on approximate nine-inch centres and sheathed with 1¼ inch-thick oak planks in order provide greater security. The tree-ring dates of 1823/4 fit well with the estimated date range of 1820 – 30.
Mile D W H and Worthington M J, 2006 ‘The Tree-Ring Dating of the Courthouse, Botetourt Hotel, and Debtors’ Prison at Gloucester Courthouse, Virginia’, archive report 2006/55
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