First step in restoring historic courthouse underway

Press release

This week Fluvanna County will take the first critical step on a path to restoration of its nationally significant historic courthouse in Palmyra, the county seat.

Working in partnership with the non-profit Fluvanna Historical Society, which proposed early last year that an Historic Structure Report (HSR) should be developed for the building, the county conducted a nationwide search. Now formally retained are the services of longtime and noted leader John Milner Associates Preservation, a division of the Arlington based architectural firm MTFA.

Creating an HSR involves thorough examination by specialized practitioners, testing and analysis, including of materials, and assessment of a building and its systems to understand its construction, conditions, and needs. The report will provide treatment plans to guide restoration and maintenance of the building.

John Mott, FAIA, director of preservation with JMA, said “An historic structure report is an important step in the stewardship of an iconic building like this one. The goal of the report is to learn all there is to know about how the building was built and determine how to care for it.”

A much beloved historic building, the courthouse was completed in 1831 under the design and direction of John Hartwell Cocke of Bremo working with Walter Timberlake, founder of the town of Palmyra. The Greek temple-form building is among the earliest public uses in the country of that architectural style in a public building. It is also rare as one of a tiny handful of courthouses of the era to retain its form without alteration or addition. It also retains many of its original fittings.

Project Manager Andrew Marshal said, “we are thrilled to have this exciting opportunity to work alongside the county and the historical society to preserve this important building. The historic Fluvanna County Courthouse is perhaps the finest example of the state’s important architectural tradition of the county courthouse and public architecture.”  The JMA team will work closely with Calvin Hickman, Fluvanna’s director of public works.

Local resident and FHS board member Kathleen Kilpatrick was tapped to serve as liaison for the Society and county throughout the process and will continue in that role. Kilpatrick, now retired, served for many years as the director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. She noted that “what scholars often refer to as the ‘Acropolis of Palmyra’ is a literal landmark, a symbol of Fluvanna’s identity and pride, and a historic landmark of first order importance.”

Field work on the exterior of the building will begin Friday with interior work inside on Thursday due to expected rain.  The project is being funded pursuant to a partnership with the historical society which has also committed to raising funds for the restoration.

Historical Society President Marvin Moss noted how pleased the organization is to be once again collaborating with the county on an historic preservation project for the public benefit. “A public-private partnership works wonders in the arena of historic preservation, and there is no worthier subject than our historic courthouse,” Moss said.

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