Page County Courthouse, court records and the Library of Virginia

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Courthouse renovations
The Page County courthouse underwent $320,000 in renovations during 2020.

~ Article republished here with permission from the Library of Virginia from the Spring 2021 (No. 10) issue of CCRP News, the newsletter of Virginia’s Circuit Court Records Preservation

This past year the historic Page County Courthouse received a “$320,000 facelift,” according to circuit court clerk C. Grayson Markowitz.

Construction of the building, the county’s first and only courthouse, was completed in 1833, two years after the creation of the county. Over the course of its history, the building has seen a few additions, including those in 1974 and 1997. However, a more detailed history of the courthouse, like a more detailed history of Page County and its residents, is easily told through the local records held in the circuit court clerk’s office.

The minutes from a court session held on July 28, 1831, indicate that a lot for a future courthouse and jail was conveyed to the county. On November 27, 1832, the magistrates appointed a commission to advertise for proposals to construct the new courthouse and clerk’s office for a cost not to exceed the sum of $6,000 (with the details of the payments spelled out). These commissioners also reported back to the court on the progress and the quality of the work.

In February 1832, the county was gifted a “suitable bell,” and in June the justices appropriated $200 for the erection of a steeple on the courthouse, which was still under construction. On December 23, 1833, officials announced that the new courthouse and clerk’s office were completed “in a very satisfactory way.”

In January 1834, a flue was added to “receive the stove pipe,” and the next month a plank fence was constructed around the courthouse. Apparently unhappy with the (free) bell they had received, the magistrates ordered a new bell with the cost to be no more than $60, including the yoke and transportation to the courthouse. In July, a lightning rod was added.

In January 1835, the courthouse was designated as one of the three voting precincts in the county. Surveyor of the road papers indicate that in March 1835 a road from “Michael Shuler’s cording machine” to the courthouse was opened. The courthouse may appear in circuit court records for any number of reasons, from the days of its inception to today.

In his August 1971 survey, local records archivist Connis Brown described the Page County Circuit Court clerk’s office and records room: “This is a pleasant office, spotlessly maintained, asphalt tile floor in sheets with rubber along the countertop roller shelving. The furniture here is some wood, but mostly metal. There are some boxes of forms sitting around but are in good order and well kept and in cardboard cartons. The old section of the vault has a metal ceiling. The new section has concrete, lighted by florescent lights, air conditioned by window unit. Everything is waxed here, even the old books are waxed and dusted regularly. An old record room will need additional space in the near future but certainly one is well maintained and the records are well maintained, and is obvious from even brief examination. The old minute books, common law books are leather bound and they are waxed or at least polished with regularity because they glisten under the fluorescent lights. There is not dust and dirt in this vault, and the air conditioning.”

An August 1993 survey by Linda V. Ellsworth, executive director of the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, pronounced the clerk’s office records room to be “very clean and tidy.”

The Library of Virginia’s institutional archives can trace its preservation partnership with the Page County Circuit Court clerk’s office back to 1920s correspondences between the clerk and the state librarian. Since then the files document collaborations regarding the inventorying, conservation, microfilming and ultimately the digitizing the chancery records (1831–1914) which are now available online in the Library of Virginia’s Chancery Records Index.

Since the CCRP program began in 1992, the Page County Circuit Court clerk’s office has been awarded more than $233,936.14 in grants.

The original article was featured on the cover of CCRP News’ spring issue and included a dozen photographs of old documents and the county courthouse from different eras. To view the newsletter, click here.

For other back issues of the newsletter, visit https://www.lva.virginia.gov/agencies/ccrp/newsletter/

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

On January 16,1973, the Page County Courthouse was dedicated as a Historic Landmark. By the time of the dedication, it was being decided to have a major expansion of the building. It was ordered that the building be renovated and added onto — a $250,000 renovation project. The new courthouse was again dedicated on November 25,1974.

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