“First, What kind of life was lived in this place, that is, Why and how did its builders build as they did?
And second, what rules with general validity and applicability did they follow?”
Carroll William Westfall, Learning From Pompeii.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Cage

"The cage" is, I believe, a term peculiar to Richmond, as applied to the receptacle for offenders. It originated from a structure, so called, erected at the north-east end of the market bridge, some fifty years ago when it terminated close to the market-house; its long parapet-wall of brick, surmounted by a capping of free-stone. This cage, of octagonal form, had iron gratings on three sides, about ten  feet above the street, and the floor of this prison was arranged ampitheatrically, so that each occupant could see, and what was worse, be seen from the street." Samuel Mordercai 1858

Richmond's administration of justice at the city-scale consisted, at first, of the punishment of minor miscreants, using the ancient means of public shaming and of more serious offenders, by flogging. In addition, English market halls often included a cage, or other enclosure, where those who were picked up at night for disturbing the peace were held until they could be brought before a magistrate in the morning. Lock-ups, variously termed "cages," round-houses," or other fearsome names, were built in villages across England during the late eighteenth and wary nineteenth centuries. Night watches were re-instituted in 1802. One was appointed for each of the city's three wards. They called out the hour by crying “O yea! O yea! Twelve o’clock and all’s well" [Christian 1912].


The Roundhouse at Wavertree, near Liverpool, built 1796, hipped roof added 1869. Unusually
 elaborate two-story version of the lock-ups found across England from the 1780s to the
1830s, when the establishment of a police force rendered them redundant. They do not appear to
 have been used, in any instance, to exhibit the offenders to the public gaze. 
These served for the temporary incarceration of persons, such as vagrants and drunkards, who had offended against public order. There was something of a crisis in these kinds of offenses by villagers and outsiders, in the years following. The enclosure of land and the increase in industrialization. In some cases, these tiny buildings were given rather ostentatiously octagonal or circular forms, as if in remembrance of the market cross and its association with public penance. 

Incorporated towns in Virginia also maintained lock-ups or cages as short-term holding cells. Richmond, for many reasons, had a similar problem with bad behavior, particularly in the area around the market.  City records show that on 12 September 1785, a night watch was authorized to arrest and confine suspected and disorderly persons after 10 PM and a ducking stool was established. A committee was appointed to make repairs to a building called "the cage" and for necessities for the night watch.  

The city's common court eventually devised an unusual structure to house offenders, known, like its predecessor, as “the Cage.” In 1811, a post and rail barrier was placed around the market house and cage. 



 Richmond City Market in 1814. Cage as shown in context of Richmond City Market. 
Detail from Virginia Mutual Assurance Society policy.


Located beside the Market Hall, the elaborate brick and stone cage contained open cells where “night-owls,” or other "disorderly persons" were held in a structure designed in the  form of a three-story cupola. The second and apparently third stages were divided into wedge-shaped cells protected by gratings. The structure was built on a stone first floor and, with what may have been an ironic intention on the part of the city's leaders, was surmounted by a dome.  Unlike most contemporary lock-ups in Britain, which were dark and tightly enclosed, the Richmond cage left the occupants exposed to the gaze of the citizens and to the weather. In this way it combined the function of the stocks and the jail. 

The octagonal cage was dated by Samuel Mordecai in 1856 to fifty years before, or about 1806. As we have seen, there was an earlier cage that was repaired in 1785. The building type was mentioned in 1814 by a traveler, Thomas H. Palmer, who mentioned that the cage was "a small room on the ground floor of jails for the confinement of unruly persons. It is generally in a public part of town, and the gate being formed of iron bars, the culprit is of course exposed to the view of the passengers." As Bryan Clark Green has observed, this kind of shaming was seen as appropriate for the maintenance of civic order: "the punishment meted out for the violation of corporation law was a public act: both actions emphasize that the offenders can be seen in the cage and that this public shaming was an essential part of the punishment. . . . in  what was perhaps the busiest public place in the town: the market." 



 Richmond City Market in 1814. Cage as shown in detail from Virginia Mutual Assurance Society policy.

The building type the Cage most resembles, and from which it most likely took its form, is the market cross, a small, often octagonal structure that was a fixture of many English market squares. It evolved from the symbol of God’s blessing on the commerce of the market town to a secular representation of political authority from which proclamations were read or to which shackles were attached for public whippings [Mark GirouardThe English Town].

The cupola as a rooftop architectural element often housed a clock or bell, which, in the absence of any other chronological standard, established the time around which daily life was ordered. It was usually reserved for use on official buildings as a sign and function of the authority of government in both England and the colonies. Here, it almost appears as if the market hall’s spire had been placed on the ground next to it in order to perform its function as regulator of the community’s order in a most literal fashion. 

The Cage did, in fact, house a bell [Common Hall records, 1816-1819, 271). It may have served as the original market bell, that marked the opening and closing of the market and was used as an alarm for the whole town. A new bell may have been purchased for the tower that formed the center of the enlarged market created in 1817-18 [Common Hall, 5 July 1817].

The cage was ordered demolished in the same year and the bell was to be sold by the Master of Police. A successor to the cage was probably located in the base of the new tower that connected the original market building with the addition of 1817-18. A cage is said to have been in use until 1827 and, in 1830, it was listed as a responsibility of the mayor to "daily, on each morning, to attend at the City Cage and direct the punishment or discharge of such persons as may be there confined, and in relation to whose cases he may be authorized to decide finally" [An Ordinance. . . establishing a Regular Police in the City of Richmond and prescribing the duties of the Mayor. . . [and] the Night Watch thereof, May 10 1830].

As the city gained new institutions like a court house (City Hall, 1818) and a city jail (1830), the role of the market-place in punishment receded. Stocks, pillory, and whipping post were likely maintained at the Henrico County Public Square on Main Street and also constructed at the new City Jail. As the marginal common land on which the Cage had been built became the site of new commercial buildings during the antebellum period, the infliction of punishment for crimes receded from the center of public life. After the Civil War, with a replacement of the old methods of shaming by increasing levels of long-term incarceration, corporate punishment receded behind the high walls of the county and city jails. 

The City's First Market



Commerce must always be civilized. A market’s prosperity provides the material basis for the citizens’ pursuit of justice, but the goods of the market are not the same as the good of the citizens. The manner of conducting the market, and the visible place the market occupies in the city, must make clear this hierarchical distinction that allows the civic values that embody transcendental ends to predominate in the lives of the citizens.

Carroll William Westfall. The City in the Image of Man.  
Journal of Anthropological Psychology No. 11, 2002.

Richmond's rise from provincial entrepot town to the status of a city occurred as it became the capital of the new commonwealth. One of the first acts of the new city government, founded in 1782, was to provide a market. The city was able to endow the market with a hall in which to conduct and regulate the market with fourteen years.

The town had earlier been given permission to hold two-day fairs on the second Thursday in May and November of each year "for the sale and vending of all manner of cattle, vitals  provisions, Goods, wares, merchandises whatever," as part of the act of establishment in 1742. Such fairs, often organized where there was no market, were occasions of general celebration as well as commerce. An act of 1705 provided for twice-weekly market days and annual fairs in the towns of the colony. The first fair to be mentioned in the Virginia Gazette was organized on St. Andrew's Day in Hanover County in 1736. The fair included horse races and prizes were awarded for country fiddling, dancing, singing, football, jumping and wrestling. A pair of silk stockings were given to the "handsomest maid" at the fair (Virginia Gazette, November 26, 1736 quoted in Colonial Williamsburg research paper "Markets and Fairs, c 1950).

Study of the Richmond market's history in the context of American and European traditions makes it clear just how closely associated the market is with the life of the city.  As Carl Lounsbury has observed: “the most basic function and one integral to towns of a certain size and economic diversity is the marketing of goods, particularly foodstuffs such as meat, poultry, cheese, eggs, butter, and vegetables. . . . At the heart of any town's prosperity was market day where tradesmen and itinerant higglers retailed their wares in the open market place. . . . The local market was not a free-wheeling, open-ended emporium of petty capitalists, although there was a strong push to make it so in many English and American towns in the eighteenth century, rather it was a highly-regulated system watched over by the clerk of the market in concert with other corporate officials” [Carl Lounsbury. The Williamsburg Market House: Where’s the Beef? 1990, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series 245].  


Market halls, in the eighteenth century, before most regulatory functions were hived off to purpose-built city halls and jails, were the centers and regulators of civic life. Here were located official scales and timepieces, constables and lockups, magistrates and courts, and the public records. Public punishment, including floggings and duckings, as well as important announcements, took place at the market. In many cases, the town's fire-fighting equipment was stored here as well. 

Markets, since time immemorial, were located and ordered to serve the public interest. They were places of carefully regulated competition, where sellers were licensed, weights and measures were standardized, quality was guaranteed, and selling outside the market not permitted. Medieval traditions of market laws, continued in the New World, functioned to protect citizens from profiteering, fraud, and cheating, provided a ready supply of high-quality produce to townspeople, and guaranteed the "market peace," which meant a safe and profitable setting for both consumers and vendors. This applied to foodstuffs as well as other produce of the farms around the city. Sellers were not permitted to sell outside the market.   

The Richmond City Market, like the Henrico County Courthouse and the Capitol, was built on public land off the official grid. In this case the market stood on the commons or public land along Shockoe Creek, on the edge of the original town. It served as the seat of one of the three governing bodies hierarchically ordering the life of the city and promoting the civic good. The county seat remained in the center of the old town along the river, while the state government established itself in Jefferson's redesigned new city on the hill to the west. It was not surprising that the city government placed itself directly in the middle. The market hall was built at the hinge between the two sections of the city, at the point where the main road crossed Shockoe Creek, not far from the boat landing and the long-established tobacco warehouses.    

Richmond was chartered as a city in 1782. The legislature established a common council and court of hustings as the local government, a clerk of the market, responsible for oversight of the rules of market, and a sergeant, responsible for keeping public order. The new section of the city on Shockoe Hill was selected as the site of the new capitol. The state authorities, encouraged by Thomas Jefferson, planned to make a new city around and on six adjoining public squares on the hill. Jefferson’s program for the new city, enacted in 1780, included a market on one of the squares. The market, however, failed to materialize, undoubtedly because there was insufficient population on the hill to support it. 



The Richmond City Market in 1814. Virginia Mutual Assurance Society policy. The building to the left is the end of a new brick row on Main Street west of the “Market Bridge” over Shockoe Creek.

The “Market of the City of Richmond” was founded by city ordinance in 1782. It was sited on the side of Seventeenth Street on public land beside the green, sloping common along Shockoe Creek next to Main Street and near the crossing, where it was convenient to the landing, county roads, and set apart from the town. The first, temporary, market house was supported on locust posts. Temporary "arbors" were set up nearby to provide shade to outdoor sellers. Wednesdays and Saturdays were set apart as “grand market days.” All goods carried into the city on those days were to remain in the public market until noon. It was significantly located at the hinge point between the new and old cities, at the nexus of major roads and port. During the next 150 years the City Market, with its daughter markets in the western sections, became, for most residents and their suppliers, the center of urban life. For the first one hundred years, the market was emblematic of the entire urban order. Police, judicial, and city government functions were housed in the central market hall, before they split off into specialized buildings during the nineteenth century.


Richmond City Market in 1814. Detail of Market House of 1794 from 
Virginia Mutual Assurance Society policy. The three arches to the right were an addition.




The Richmond Market House was similar in form and detail to the 1773 Market House of Providence RI, before the addition of the third floor and the vestibule seen in this c 1870 photograph.

Every market stood in some sort of precinct or square associated with the boundaries of the market regulations. The original market boundaries must have been informal, because in 1793, before building a market house, the Common Hall tasked a committee with the laying out of a market square. This square was somewhat different in form from the current market district. It occupied a 150- by 300-foot rectangle between the platted town and the creek. This square spanned Main Street, with equal space to either side of the street. The east end of the new stone bridge over Shockoe Creek projected fifty feet into the center of the west side of the square.  The brick Market House was built in 1794 on the north side of the street and the southern half of the square must have served as an open-air market.      

           Plat of Market Square, Minutes of the Common Council, 21 Dec. 1793.

The old frame hall was was torn down and sold, except for an addition that served as a fish market, that was retained for a while (malodorous fish markets were usually restricted to a separate structure).  A plan was been drawn up by December of 1793 and the building was contracted out in the following spring under the direction of a committee appointed by the Common Hall. Records indicate that the brickwork was executed by Bartholomew Trueheart and the woodwork by Reuben George. 

The building measured thirty feet wide by one hundred feet long and appears to have been formed into eleven nine-foot bays, each containing an arched opening, although the later insurance drawing shows twelve arched bays in the main building and three in an extension to the north. A wide arch in the south end gave access to an eighteen-foot aisle flanked by six-foot-deep stalls corresponding to the arcade bays.  The west wall, which backed up to the creek, was lined with nine stalls. The five stalls on the east alternated with four openings to the exterior. The 18-foot-wide central space would have housed a double row of stalls in addition. At other markets in Virginia the interior stalls eventually tended to  accommodated mostly butchers, with vegetable sellers provided with stalls under awnings or sheds to each side.  The northern two bays (eighteen feet) accommodated a "meal house" in the northwest corner adjacent to an eighteen- by twenty-foot space labeled "country market" where farm produce could be displayed. 

                Plan of Market House, the Minutes of the Common Council, March 18, 1793

The 3,000 square-foot market house was originally conceived as a one-story building. But before it was completed, the Common Hall had added a second story that was used for public purposes, including meetings of the Common Hall, assemblies, balls, and occasionally as a temporary school or theater. The upper floor may not have been fully finished at first, but the Common Hall ruled that it was to be used henceforth as a place of meeting instead of the Henrico County Courthouse, where they had been meeting previously.  The upper floor had more than one room: in 1816 the Common voted to allow the new Lancastrian school to use the front part of the upper floor of the market house provided they did not prevent free access to the room on the same floor still used as a council chamber by the Common Hall. [Common Hall Minutes 22 March 1816].


There is a gap in the city records, but the hall reappears in 1808, when the room above is to be fitted up and "conveniences provided for the called meetings of the hall". In 1811 and 1812, as the city government prepared to move to a new city hall, the market hall received  considerable attention. A partition was added to accommodate the offices of the Market Clerk and the High Constable. The city refurnished the upper room to serve as the hustings courtroom and gave the city's rifle company permission to hold meetings in the upper room.  At the same time posts and rails were place around the market square and the cage was repaired. A one-story addition of approximately 600 square feet was made to the north in 1812, seen in the 1814 insurance drawing above and the entire market house re-floored in brick to match the level of the new section. 

The ground to the west of the market was laid out in lots and a street developed along its western side. The “way now used as a street” from the northern boundary of the town by Tate’s Tanyard and the Market House and along the western side of Robert Mitchell’s tenement to the river was to be laid out as an official street as part of a general filling-in undertaken in the undeveloped area on either side of  Shockoe Creek.

Lawsuits between reviewed by the Virginia Supreme Court in April of 1860 reveals significant information about the market. The "arch and bridge" that carried Frankin Street over the creek were built between 1814 and 1817. According to Col. Edward Carrington, in 1815 or 1816, the fish market, "which had formerly been on the east side of Shockoe creek, between Main and Cary streets, where a flat rock was situated, which was used as a fish bench, and where country carts used to encamp, was moved to the lot in controversy [land on the east side of the creek just south of Franklin Street] by the permission of Richard Adams, who wished to build on the ground between Main and Cary streets. 

The fish market consisted of nothing but one or more benches, none of which were placed on the lot in controversy, but near it, and the fish carts used the said lot and fish were washed in the creek near thereto. The fish market remained there until the extension of the market building, which was probably a year or two after a condemnation of land in 1827, for the purposes of the market." The lot in question was "almost a quagmire"  [Thomas Johnson Michie. Virginia Reports, Vol. XVI, July 1, 1860- April 1, 1865, Richard D. Mitchell vs Angelo Baratta, Charlottesville VA: Michie Co, 1901].

Eventually, as the adjoining land was laid out in lots, the market stood in the middle of a widened section of Seventeenth Street lined with shops. It was composed of a long arcaded loggia for stalls and a second-floor public hall. As the city grew, the market was extended for a further block north to Grace Street [this may have occasioned the condemnation of land in 1827 referred to above]. As was the case at the Second Market, meat markets tended to separate from the other market sellers, although it is not clear what each of the sections of the market housed as it moved north.

A city ordinance passed on October 2, 1829 appointed a Weigh Master to certify the quality and weight of "hay, fodder, and long forage" used to feed the city's horses and cattle. The Weigh Master or his deputy attended the Public Scales that had already been erected at the market from sunup to sundown every day except Sunday. This official served to protect citizens from recent "frequent and great abuses . . . in the sale of Hay, Fodder and other Long Forage, whereby considerable gain has attached to the seller, at the expense of the purchaser."

What appears to be a clock is shown in the pediment of the principal facade facing Main Street. This served as another representation of the ordering function of city government. Since each town set its own time in relation to the movement of the sun, it was necessary that there be an official timepiece by which watches and clocks could be set. At first the market did not have a bell.  In 1793, the Governor had loaned a bell belonging to the capitol to be used as a public bell in the cupola of the nearby Masonic Hall (completed in 1787) to call alarms and signal the opening and closing of the market.

The administration of justice at the the city's level was centered at the market hall. Punishment of minor offenses was prosecuted by exposure in the nearby stocks, a ducking stool, and by placement of those who were apprehended after 10:00 PM in the elaborate structure next to the market house that was called The Cage (see separate article here). The night watch was based at the market. Similarly, regional (county) justice was served at the courthouse and jail in the center of the original town and at the provincial (state) level at the Capitol and the new Virginia State Penitentiary on the western edge of the city. The three political scales were expressed architecturally at three points in the city, regionally in the east, locally at the center, and provincially in the west. Given the geographical barriers between sectors, each of the three polities were closely associated with an historic section of the city and with a differentiated building tissue.

Typically, this order was confirmed by civic pageantry organized during the period, when parades would originate at the county courthouse, run past the market house, and climb Shockoe Hill to end at the Capitol, beginning as early as 1824, with the welcoming procession for Layfayette, and continuing with James Monroe in 1831, and numerous events connected with Washington's birthday [Christian].












Market Halls at Como (1215, left) and Peterborough (1671, right)


Market Typology [Richard Worsham]


The market hall is the earliest type of European government building. It is found from medieval Italy to the Netherlands in the Renaissance. From its earliest known example at Como in 1215, cited by Pevsner, the building type incorporated an arcaded market loggia on the ground floor and a single room above used for town hall and court. Although the government and market functions diverged in large cities during the late Middle Ages, the close identification of market and local government continued in regional market towns. The costs of local government were largely borne by the income derived from the stalls, as was its architectural manifestation in the form of an arcaded loggia. This pattern transferred for economic as much as political reasons to the colonies. Medieval market buildings with ground-floor arcades gave way to more classical forms, but the form most often remained very similar.




 Faneuil Hall, Boston, MA, before additions by Charles Bulfinch in 1809.

There were no market halls in the colonies until there was a sufficient population to require them. A small frame market house was built in Norfolk, possibly in the late seventeenth century. The form of the market hall was used for the frame Boston Town House in Massachusetts built in 1657 which stood in the middle of State Street. It was replaced in 1713 with the brick State House, which housed a merchant exchange on the first floor and the colonial government on the second. Faneuil Hall was built in 1740-42 and resembled many English-style market halls built during the following, years, including Richmond's First Market.



Virginia Capitol at Williamsburg


The arcades of the 1794 Market House at Richmond are related to a long tradition of civic architecture. The market are almost always associated with extended arcades for both practical and symbolic reasons. Examples of arcades at hand include court houses and the Williamsburg Capitol. As Carl Lounsbury has observed, the compass-headed window or door opening was generally reserved for public buildings. The Virginia examples had their models in England. The arched piazzas found at the Williamsburg Capitol and incorporated into courthouses in neighboring counties have their roots in English market halls and the courtyards of mercantile structures in London, Oxbridge colleges, and local buildings such as almshouses built in the seventeenth century. 




Market Hall, Fredericksburg, Virginia, 1817. Virginia's only surviving early market hall was located facing an enclosed market square on the interior of a city block.

Virginian political leaders were equally aware of the classical sources of civic architecture and of their intermediaries in England. The seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English use of the term piazza for a covered walk or portico is connected with the elite emulation of Italian Renaissance squares and is ultimately derived from the Roman forums. As Carl Lounsbury has noted, Christopher Wren observed of his Trinity College arcades that “according to the manner of the ancients, who made double walks . . . about the forum.” As in Virginia, English market halls stood in or adjacent to the squares provided for commerce in many market towns. Stalls displaying wares for sale were protected from the weather in an arcaded loggia beneath a second floor housing official functions. The American market took a different, but related form, in the late eighteenth century. The market house occupied the center of the market square, sometimes extending in a long line down the middle of a widened street to maximize access and ease of movement both for internal and external traffic.




Linear Market at Market Street seen from Front Street, Philadelphia PA, 1838



The Charleston City Market at Charleston. South Carolina seen from the lower end. The land on which the market stands was ceded to the city in 1788 and the market building were built between 1804 and 1830s. The linear structure consisted of a series of low,   buildings, of successively diluted form,  housing meat, vegetable, and fish markets extending away from  The temple-form Market Hall at the far end was built in 1841 to the designs of Edward Brickwell White.

In Virginia loggias were attached to the fronts of courthouses or capitol as places for the gathering of the community. They served to house the informal portion of the political or legal activity and for the rare opportunity for social interaction that life in a dispersed rural colony discouraged. It permitted, on specified days of each month, much the same purposes as the European square or ancient forum. In a way it was the forum turned inside out. The internally oriented European court or piazza, disposed in front of town halls, palaces or churches, became the arched or columned American piazza from which the citizens observed the cultivated landscape or the grassy public squares of the new republic. 



Hanover County Courthouse, Virginia, 1735

The way in which Americans approach landscape, as Carroll William Westfall has noted, is different from that found in Europe. “In the United States the greensward replaces the piazza. The result is a continuity between rural and urban in the built-upon and cultivated landscape that supports the polyvalent system of governmental jurisdictions defining the multiplicity of overlapping duties within the civil realm” [Westfall. The City in the Image of Man. Journal of Anthropological Psychology No. 11, 2002]. The early Richmond market hall stood at first, like the Virginia country courthouses and like the new Capitol on Shockoe Hill, on broad expanses of open land. One contemporary remembered the “green pasture” of the town common that extended from the market house down to Shockoe Creek. Eventually the area around the market was lined with shops and it took on a more enclosed form.


William Sheppard, Harper's Weekly.  First Market in 1868

As the city grew the market at Seventeenth Street, known as the Old Market, retained its significance. The large room on the second floor was known as "Military Hall" and filled a need for place to meet or drill among the city's military companies (later, in 1909, the Richmond Light Infantry Blues would be given its headquarters over the city's Second Market). The street on the west side was extended from Franklin to Grace Street as the market grew north. When the market was expanded north along Seventeenth Street, the new one-story market building was linked to the old by a tower carried over Walnut Alley on an archway. The market as shown on Mijacah Bates map of 1835 has a form familiar from larger urban markets of the early nineteenth century (like Alexander Paris’ Quincy Market in Boston), which feature a central hall surmounted by a dome or cupola. 


First Market in 1835. Detail from Mijacah Bates' map showing original market hall at the lower end, connected to the north wing by the wider central archway. Q is the recently erected Scale House. Until Shockoe Creek had been straightened out (old and new stream beds are both shown) shops could not be added along the west side of the square.
The central tower and the north wing are visible in the background of the 1865 Harper’s Magazine illustration shown below. The cupola on top of the tower is of a style and form consistent with the 1830s or earlier. The market bell marked the opening and closing hours and was used to ring the alarm when the town was threatened by fire or other danger the bell survives in the current market shed. The bell was cracked during an alarm in the Civil War and was recast. 

By 1853, the market building was judged by a city committee to be inadequate. The section of the market "from Main Street to the arch opposite the Watch House" was replaced in the following year at  cost of $18,300. The Italianate-style two-story building was likely designed by the City Engineer, W. McGill.  The dramatic second floor featured tall arched windows and a cornice with paired brackets. It was supported on a long cast-iron colonnade terminating in an arcaded loggia at the south. The colonnade concealed an inner arcade on each side that aided in supporting the floor above.  A "window of appearances" with a balcony overlooked Main Street at the south end. This feature was a familiar feature of market/city halls and confirmed the building's role as a place from which public announcements were made. From this time on the old market was referred to as the "First Market." 

                 First Market as shown in Harper's Weekly in 1865. Note arched base of     
                                  tower and arcaded extensions to north. 


Detail from illustration in Harper's Weekly in 1862 showing the northern section of the market
between Franklin and Grace streets and its cupola at center right. 
Open market pavilions extended to Grace Street and hucksters lined adjoing streets on markets days. The market hall served as courtroom and police station in the years before and after the Civil War. The hall was used for various purposes, including polling station, convention hall and military drilling. In 1855, the city permitted the Western and Southern Commercial Convention to hold its meeting there. In 1862, it was the scene, not only of the assembly, conscripting, and meeting of troops but also the site of a charity ball and a hospital for wounded soldiers. 


       This detail from an 1876  panorama of Richmond by Lutz 
          shows the First Market Hall at left with the cupola behind it.

The Market Hall was the scene of a riot in 1870, when the mayor appointed by the Federal troops refused to turn over his post to the elected mayor. Federal soldiers and a recently enrolled opposition police force battled over the occupancy of the Market Hall.  The second floor was removed in the early twentieth century, leaving the loggia at the south end and a bell tower with a domed cupola at the north, connected by a long central colonnade. The market hall continued to serve a variety of public purposes: the Rev. Moses Drury Hoge of Second Presebyterian Church held religious meetings there for years following a visit by evangelist Dwight L. Moody in 1885. In 1903, the motormen and the conductors of the Virginia Passenger and Power Company met in "Old Market Hall" to discuss a breakdown in negotiations with management concerning an increase in wages, ultimately resulting in five weeks of sabotage and violence and the calling out of a large show of military force [Christian 489]. 


           Third Building at Richmond’s First Market site plan from Sanborn Map of 1889. Photo of first state (built 1854) below on left and with second-floor hall removed on the right. 



In 1913, the city replaced the First market with a new building, now also gone, seen below. Like its predecessors, it put a classical facade to Main Street., but it provided the sanitation and refrigeration that enclosed markets could supply.  Unlike them, it did not include any assembly or office space to functionally link the market with the political life.



The Henrico County Courthouse

The second public building to be constructed in Richmond showed the growing influence of the town in the region. It followed the establishment of the church in the vicinity by nearly thirty years and the construction of the Upper Church on Richmond Hill by less than a decade. The new seat of regional government appears to have been planned to occupy a conventional lot. A long-established understanding of the placement of civic architecture, however, led to its being placed in a dominating position in the center of the adjacent cross street, where, by its unique axial placement (seen in the adjacent 1809 map detail), it could become identified with the grid that ordered the city rather than ruled by it. With the replacement of the colonial building by a temple-form courthouse on the same site in 1825, Richmond joined other Virginia county seats that were centered around a Jeffersonian temple-form "hall of justice." 

Richmond was selected as the new seat of Henrico County in 1750. The public land provided for the courthouse was the half-acre lot 18 on the southwest corner of E and 6th street, what are now Main and Twenty-second streets near the middle of the town. The trustees must have realized that a corner site was not sufficiently significant a location, so they aligned the building with the center of Sixth (now Twenty-second) Street where, as the principal public building, it was distinguished from ordinary buildings not only by its substantial materials and form, but by its axial setting. The building was prepared for use by 1752, when the court made the move from Varina to Richmond. Although there is no description of the courthouse, the drawing of the prison bounds in the 1780s shows it in the center of the street and the jail located on the adjacent on the public lot. In order to fit within the street the building was longer than it was wide.




Young's Map (1809, above) and Bates Map of Richmond (1835, below) showing the successive
 1750 and 1825 Henrico County courthouses in the center of 22nd St. and the Henrico County Jail
 on the original public lot to the west. St. John's Church is seen at the top center of the lower map.

Building a Courthouse in 1750

According to Carl Lounsbury, the pre-Revolutionary courthouse was often a small and undistinguished building. However, as the eighteenth century progressed, members of the principal county families began to see the courthouse and the church as arenas for architectural expression. As at the Upper Church of Henrico Parish (St. John's Church), local materials and regional building technology could be pressed into the service of a more ambitious program to remake the public face of colonial government. This remaking was not only an effort of the educated gentry, but was funded, not without contention, by the freeholders, who took pride in an increasingly substantial and durable architectural program “in which building matched public expectations” and corresponded with hierarchical political arrangements [Lounsbury 85-89].

While there was never a break with traditional building practices, the increasing wealth of the colony, its more complex political structure, and the “cosmopolitan perspective” of the ruling gentry class “prompted the introduction of academic architectural elements from outside the regional building traditions” [Lounsbury]. Public building were part of the same tradition as private homes, and shared many similar details, but public buildings were distinguished in Virginia by their large scale and by the widespread employment of the arch in the form of large “compass-headed” doors and windows, as in the Upper Church at Richmond.

Henrico County was established in 1619 as one of four cities or boroughs making up the colony. Originally the parishes administered most county-level functions, including moral discipline and road maintenance. As part of an extension of government out from Jamestown eight shires, including Henrico, were to hold monthly commissioners’ courts to settle legal issues. Courts met in houses or taverns. In 1645, the county courts were authorized to hear all cases, both criminal and civil. By 1662, the courts were made up of justices of the peace. A frame courthouse was built in Henrico in the mid-seventeenth century. In 1680, the assembly established a town in the place “where the court house is” across the river from the former site of the town of Henrico, ten miles below Richmond. The site, since at least 1635, of the parish's glebe farm which housed and supported the minster, the tiny settlement was called Varina, after a type of Spanish tobacco. The act of the assembly in 1680 ordained that the village “where the courthouse is” was to be a shipping, trade, and crafts center. Like much of the town-making attempted by the colonial government, little came of the act. The small earthfast frame courthouse stood near a brick glebe house, residence of the rector of Henrico Parish. This was described as standing on blocks in 1688, when it was repaired.

The Form of a Courthouse


The 1750 Chesterfield County Courthouse that used the early eighteenth-century 
Henrico Courthouse as its model. 

Henrico County moved like other Virginia counties to improve the court's setting at Varina. In the second quarter of the eighteenth century, the justices built a new, more substantial courthouse. The structure was of brick, but there is no first-hand record of its appearance or form. Richmond was made the county seat in 1750 because, with the creation of Chesterfield County out of the half of Henrico located below the James River, Varina was no longer centrally or conveniently located. In keeping with the imitative nature of colonial building practices, the Chesterfield County court in 1750 used the old Henrico Courthouse as their model for their courthouse. The new structure was to be built “of the same dimensions and material,” except that it was to have a plank floor. Photographs of the Chesterfield Courthouse give a clue as to the form of its Henrico predecessor. They show it to have been a rectangular building with five bays on the front, including a central door, segmentally arched windows, a modillion cornice, and glazed-header Flemish bond walls.


The new Henrico County Courthouse of 1825 from a Virginia Mutual Assurance policy, 1825.

The old Henrico County courthouse was abandoned at the same time that it was chosen as the model for new seat of Chesterfield County’s government. It is likely that, if the new Henrico Courthouse in Richmond was similarly modeled on its predecessor, its location in the street would have caused its builders to vary its design by putting its main entrance in the north gable end. The site made a building that was wider than it was long impractical. In its urban context and with the comparative wealth of the county, the 1750 building was probably at least as finely made as most other mid-eighteenth-century courthouse in the vicinity.

We do not know what the 1750 courthouse looked like, but its successor, built in 1825, was a brick building 70 feet long and 40 feet wide, similar to these local eighteenth-century prototypes. The new building was of a single story and was fronted by a pedimented Doric portico. Entry doors in each of the outer bays flanked a large central window, a design unique among Virginia courthouses. The building was planned by Samuel Sublett and constructed by a group including William C. Allen and William Street [Charles Brownell, Jeffersonian Courthouse in Virginia, 1810-1850. National Historic Landmark Thematic Nomination Project, 2006]. 

The courthouse of 1825 was placed in the same axial location as its predecessor. The new building incorporated the new temple form assumed by Virginia courthouses, which, as Charles Brownell has shown, was generated by Jefferson's project for a temple-form "hall of justice" across Virginia's counties [Brownell, 2006]. It is formally related to the nearby Virginia Capitol, visible to the west on Shockoe Hill. There its impressive form and position punctuated the western end of an axial route that connected the state government at the Capitol on Shockoe Hill with county government in the center of the old section of town in on the river. The importance of this linkage is indicated by the route prescribed for important civic parades during the antebellum era. These carefully ordered public displays of civic unity began at the courthouse and processed to an end point at the Capitol.

Parades along the route include one for Lafayette's visit in 1824, another in 1831 for the funeral of President Monroe, and the procession in 1832 to celebrate the 100th birthday of George Washington, beginning at the "new courthouse" along E Street to 5th and from 5th to H and along that to the First Baptist Church at the east end of Broad Street. The funeral procession for Jefferson in 1826, which also followed the route from courthouse to capitol, showed the city and state hierarchically arrayed in its full integrity: Governor, Council, Officers of state, officers and soldiers of the Revolution and Society of Cincinnati, clergy and relatives of the deceased, Federal and State Committee of Arrangements, the mayor and corporate authorities of Richmond, citizens of Richmond, and the military [W. A. Christian, 1914].


The 1842 Henrico County Courthouse in the 1850s, relocated to the public square on the corner.

When Richmond became a city in 1782, the city's "common hall" continued to work closely with the county. The county retained jurisdiction over overseers of the poor, over criminal cases, and over the city's tobacco warehouses, while the city was authorized to organize a militia and to provide judicial oversight for slaves that lived within its limits. In 1822 the county court's session time was extended due to the increase in case load as the city grew. Eventually, with the passage of the Underwood Constitution in 1869, the city no longer had any direct political connection to the county. The anomalous position of the county government in an independent civil unit undoubtedly reduced the status of the structure as a civic building. The courthouse had rebuilt on the public land on the corner lot in the 1842 by Isaac Goddin, presumably as a result of increased commercial activity and traffic along the nearby City Dock made opening up the street seem desirable. The county appears to have reused the three-bay Doric portico, but the new building was two stories in height and featured a central entry.

Damaged by fire in 1865, the courthouse of 1842 was replaced by a new or rebuilt structure in 1867 by William H. Yeatman [Brownell, 2006]. This courthouse served the county until it was replaced in 1896. Repair of the old building was determined to be unfeasible. Richmond architect Carl Ruehrmund, who studied architecture and civil engineering at the Royal Academy in Berlin, provided the design for the building that still occupies the site. It contrasted sharply with the trim classicism of the series of buildings it replaced [Peters, Virginia's Historic Courthouses, 1995]. Not until the 1970s did the county government relocate out of the city, after which the Victorian courthouse remained empty for many years.
The former Henrico County Courthouse of 1893,
located on the original corner public square on Main Street.