“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.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


A triumphal arch constructed as a temporary 
entry gateway to the massive Street
Carnival held on Broad Street
in 1900. 
The ritual aspects of Richmond's spatial organization were embodied in the regular parades and ceremonial entries by military heroes and presidents that punctuated the city’s collective life. At the same time, the solemn processions such as the city's post-Civil War Emancipation Day parades could embody the collective aspirations of a disenfranchised section of the population. The city's street were also the scene of spontaneous parades and even riots, when residents wanted to attract political attention to an issue. 

The classical foundations of nineteenth-century liberal arts education guaranteed that many of the Richmond’s political leaders viewed contemporary cities as the inevitable heirs of an ancient civilization. Ancient Roman practice included the erection of a multiplicity of architectural memorials to the dead, whose virtue could instruct the city, of heroically scaled images of rulers and military leaders, of trophies celebrating victories in war, and of public structures, such as loggias and fountains, that allegorized the natural world even as they provided for the public good. 

Ceremonial routes were associated with the armatures identified among imperial Roman cities by William McDonald, which formed around the connecting links (the principal streets and squares), the important public buildings, and the "architecture of passage," which consisted of public amenities such as fountains and arches and marked segments or stages along the route [McDonald, The Architecture of the Roman Empire: An Urban Appraisal, 3]. These routes provided the setting for the adventus, in which the emperor formally entered the city, either following a military campaign or as part of a tour or progress through the realm.  This practice continued into early modern times as the festivity associated with the ritual entry and greeting of a prince by the civic authorities, followed by a ceremonial meal. 

The 1905 Emancipation Day Parade moves west along Main Street following Richmond's
 traditional parade route. Its solemn and determined participants demonstrated their

 resolve to celebrate and perpetuate freedom to observers at upper floor windows. 

Processions and parades at the Urban Scale

Before the erection of the Washington Monument in Capitol Square in the 1850s, the city’s processional route was marked by civic architecture at the urban scale, including the Henrico County Courthouse, the city's Market Hall, the City Hall (after 1816) and the Capitol as the markers of a ceremonial adventus armature. However, in 1824, triumphal arches greeted Lafayette in almost every city he visited. One large arch extended over Main Street from the Union Hotel to the building across from it [Charles Poindexter, Richmond: An Illustrated Guidebook, 1907, 47]. Three arches, dedicated to Generals Lafayette, Nelson, and Green, spanned the three upper gates to Capitol Square, in which stood a central four-fronted arch and an obelisk in honor of other officers [Christian 102]. 

Here, in a detail from a Harper's Magazine
 illustration of the fall of Richmond, a resident
 watches the celebration in the street from a balcony above Main Street. 
Early nineteenth-century store/houses did not have exterior balconies. These were
developed during the antebellum period.  Here, on Bank Street in Petersburg, is a mid-
nineteenth-century cast iron balcony, typically located at the windows of the first floor of
 the living quarters above a shop, from which residents could watch not only civic processions  but the daily activities of the street. 
Regular annual celebratory processions on the Fourth of July and Washington’s Birthday (which replaced the King’s Birthday from pre-revolutionary times) served to reinforce the  American sense of community by delineating lines of social and political organization.  This kind of unifying civic ritual was transformed in many cities, after the 1840s, into an “ethnic festival” designed to bring out differences among the citizens.  

The civic parade is a particularly American invention, where, according to Mary Ryan, the city displayed itself, organized into corporate groups, for public view. It took the form of a long procession of marching units, many uniformed in keeping with their position in the city, and was open to any group who wished to participate [Mary Ryan, “The American Parade: Representations of Nineteenth-Centry Social Order,” in Lynn Avery Hunt, The New Cultural History, U of California P, 1989, 131-138]. These were part of the rich political life of the street, where blocks of voters, drills of militias, and even spontaneous riots moved along the city’s streets to the view of spectators and building occupants.  

The appearance of a "commemorative procession" following the death of George 
Washington in 1799, Philadelphia, PA [Detail, Birch's Views of Philadelphia, Plate 11].

Like the parade that accompanied Lafayette’s heroic entry into Richmond in 1824, Washington's birthday parade in 1832 formed at the Henrico Courthouse, proceeded past the market, and ended at the Capitol [Christian 103]. 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 [Christian]. The Washington Monument parade of 1858 also embraced the traditional ceremonial route, starting at 21st and Main and ending at the dedication of the monument. 

The "funeral car" for the civic ceremonies in 1852 honoring the recently deceased
 political figures John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, and Henry Clay,  in New Orleans. 
Richmond funeral parades undoubtedly employed similar memorial trappings.
Jefferson Davis's funeral caisson in 1893.

As the city’s monuments multiplied over time, entry and military parades were routed to take advantage of the overlay of civic symbolism provided by public art as an "architecture of passage" to the city’s relentless grid of streets. Since the object of the celebration was absent, most of the civic birthday and funeral parades had been entirely symbolic. The funeral for Jefferson Davis in 1893 was very different, owing to the specific demands of the burial in Hollywood Cemetery. The procession, the culmination of a extended train cortege originating in New Orleans, was viewed by thousands as the hearse moved from the Capitol to the cemetery. In a similar way, the private funeral procession, moving slowly behind the hearse on its way to Hollywood or one of the city's other cemeteries, links the mourners' private remembrance to the ongoing life of the city

Teddy Roosevelt’s entry into the city took place along along Main Street in 1905 and appears to have turned north here at Fifth Street for a gentle climb to Capitol Square.  [Shockoe Examiner].
After the completion of Monument Avenue, the armature of the entry ritual changed from Main Street to Monument Avenue, with arrival of dignitaries at Broad Street Station and an end point, as always, at Capitol Square. They included the processions for Marshall Foch, Richard E. Byrd, Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, and Queen Elizabeth, wife of King George V. past the many representations of Confederate military and political leaders and the equestrian statue of Washington [Monument Avenue Preservation Zone NR form, 1969]. 

Political processions, designed to promote the campaigns of candidates, were never absent from the streets of the city. In 1892, city Democrats organized several rallies, the "most notable of which was the night of September 23rd. There was a parade and torchlight procession and thousands gathered at the Academy of Music to hear Adlai E.Stevenson and Isadore Rayner speak" [Christian 426]. The victory of Grover Cleveland that November led to a massive celebration and "one of the greatest parades in her history. . . . thirty-eight squares long . . . . There were torches, tableaux, and floats, which made a brilliant spectacle" [Christian 426].  

Military parades, originally designed to showcase the marching skills of fighting units, became, with the advent of large-scale war in the late nineteenth century, both an element of national propaganda and a way of commemorating those who died in war. Victory parades resembled, not only the entry of soldiers into defeated cities, but the "triumphs" of successful armies, laden with booty and prisoners, processing into the Roman forum. Typified by the Bastille Day parade in Paris, established under the Third Republic in 1880, the modern version of these events included massed military units, wagons and caissons, and eventually, tanks and other armored vehicles. Over time, military components tended to supplant the display of civic order typical of early nineteenth-century processions. The inaugural parade for Gov. William O'Ferrall in 1894, featuring the First, Second, Third and Fourth regiments, marked a new era of state pageantry. "There was more pomp and ceremony attuning this inaugural  than any since war" [Christian 434]. When local regiments of the Virginia troops marched to the station for the Spanish American War in 1898, the streets were lined with supporters [Christian 459].

March written for the Street Carnival in 1900.

In 1900, a massive "Street Carnival" was organized by the city's commercial interests to promote or "boost" the city. The carnival was deliberately modeled on the growing Carnival celebrations in New Orleans and Mobile, harnessing entertainment to commercial  growth. The first day featured a parade of floats celebrating local companies, followed by floral, military, and children's parades on subsequent days. A large triumphal arch formed an impressive gateway to the festival. "Broad Street was filled with novel and beautiful booths and all the houses were decorated. At night it looked like fairyland. . . . Day after day there were thousands of people on the street, and all seemed to enter into the spirit of the occasion" [Christian 471]. 

In October of the following year, the organizers gave the street festival a new theme, "The Electric Carnival."  An archway resembling the Eiffel Tower was located in the center of the street, edged with lines of incandescent lights and topped by a star-shaped cluster of lamps. Much of the lighting was provided by electric railway headlights. According to a trade publication, "Its object was the betterment of the city, extension of its business, advertising its climate, industries and manufactures; it was directed somewhat after the style of the New Orleans "Mardigras," the night pageants being very beautiful; in fact the celebration was a street fair and carnival combined. Ten thousand electric lights were strung across Broad Street for about half a mile, making it as bright as day" Exhibits included an animal show and a display called "the Streets of Cairo" [Street Railway Journal, XVIII:20 (1901) 738].  

The tower was remotely illuminated at the opening remotely by President Roosevelt from the White House using a telegraph key [Ward 215]. The carnivals proved very popular. Unlike the carnivals in the deep South, however, the Richmond Carnival, without a direct relation to local traditions, proved to be a short-lived effort. The success of the temporary arches appears to have prompted the United Daughters of the Confederacy to propose a monumental arch in 1902 over Broad Street at the intersection of Twelfth Street as a memorial to Jefferson Davis, but this was never built. The role of urban promotional event was taken on by the Tobacco Festival, with its pageant and parade, beginning in 1949.

This arch was proposed for a site in Monroe Park soon after Jefferson Davis' death in 1889.
In 1901, the United Daughters of the Confederacy proposed placing an arch over Broad Street
[City on the James, 1893].

The dedication of monuments in Richmond often began with a parade. In the case of the Lee Monument, hundreds of citizens were recruited to pull the statue through the streets. The Jefferson Davis Monument, finally realized on Monument Avenue, was dedicated as a part of the large Confederate reunion of 1907 and took place at the culmination of an impressive parade.

318th Infantry Regiment’s homecoming parade through a temporary triumphal arch into
 Capitol Square in Richmond, Virginia about June 1919. From the regimental history of the

Here is a brief film of a 1918 military parade moving along Broad Street and Monument Avenue and ending at the Capitol.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Hanover County Courthouse of c 1740 (VDHR], where the arcaded piazza,
at grade, fronts a raised courthouse interior.
In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Virginia, the civic architecture built in the rural counties that spanned the state, such as courthouses, was always closely related to the public buildings  found in cities and towns. The Capitol at Richmond, like its predecessor at Williamsburg, stood at the heart of a political system that was housed in public buildings erected at a series of crossroads hamlets. By their form and ornament, mostly derived from provincial English sources, these meticulously imagined structures illustrated for their users the way in which the political order could promote the common good. By the 1730s, a continuous hierarchy of substantial civic buildings was in place, from the courthouses and jails at the local level to the capitol, prison, and governor's house at the state level. Local and state leaders, spurred by Thomas Jefferson, successfully undertook a thorough reformation of civic architecture at every level. They projected a new series of civic buildings in order to set a rigorous standard, worthy of the new republic, for architectural achievement in both the public and private realms. Local leaders adapted regionally appropriate building types (like the basilica-plan courthouse with a piazza and a curved end wall) that served specific political orders, and transformed them through a careful use of classical and Renaissance architectural forms.  

The Virginia Courthouse Square

In the overwhelmingly rural context of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Virginia, county courts were the dispensers of justice, regulation, and administration for most of the widely dispersed population. County government involved a monthly gathering of the county's elected political leaders at a central point located along the county's most important route. The two most important buildings associated with county government in colonial Virginia were a courthouse in which to conduct the basic functions of local government and a “prison” or “gaol” in which to hold two sorts of individuals: those who were awaiting trial and/or punishment and those who had been identified by the court as debtors. Given the absence of towns or villages in many counties, public buildings were often placed on an enclosed tract of one or two acres, entirely surrounded by an open agricultural landscape, usually referred to as the "public square."

The courthouse square is closely related to the market places of medieval and Jacobean England.  The English market square typically included a government building in the form of a town hall/ market hall equipped with a loggia, piazza or portico, as well as a market cross, the venue for official announcements and the public administration of justice. The rural nature of Virginia counties precluded regular markets held in the same building that housed local government, such as was the case in England and in larger Virginia towns such as Richmond and Fredericksburg, but fairs and court days brought the public square and the area around it to life on a monthly or semi-annual basis. In much the same way, the stocks and whipping post found in courthouse squares were instruments long associated with the conduct of justice at the local level on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Capitol at Williamsburg (1705, reconstructed 1934)
stood at the top of the hierarchy of colonial government.  
The central "piazza," entered through brick arches, is 
related to architectural forms associated with town halls 
in England. The curved apses, ultimately derived 
from ancient Roman basilicas, contained seating 
for political and judicial authorities. 
The King William County Courthouse (c 1730). Beginning
about 1730, county courts began using more permanent
construction materials.  Arcades or "piazzas" not unlike 
the central piazza at the Capitol began to appear at 
some courthouses, along with curved back walls 
containing, like those at the Capitol, the seats from which the 
political and judicial leaders exercised their authority. 

The arched piazzas at eighteenth-century Virginia courthouses (and at the Capitol in Williamsburg) are related to a long tradition of civic architecture, and were provided provided for both practical and symbolic reasons. Their models were found not only in the market halls of England, but in the courtyards of mercantile structures in London, Oxbridge colleges, and local buildings such as almshouses. The ultimate reference, recognizable to classically educated Virginians, was to the Roman forum, particularly as interpreted by Andrea Palladio. The forum was seen as a significant precedent for enclosed courtyards and for the larger public square. Carl Lounsbury has pointed out how Christopher Wren made the arcade at Trinity College Library in Cambridge “according to the manner of the ancients, who made double walks . . . about the forum” [Carl Lounsbury, The Courthouses of Early Virginia: An Architectural History, 2005].  

When Leonard Bacon (1801-1881), a nineteenth-century Congregational clergyman, explained the reasons behind the creation of the New Haven Green, he echoed what countless other classically trained civic leaders understood. The public square was "designed not as a park or mere pleasure ground, but as a place for public buildings, for military parades and exercises, for the meeting of buyers and sellers, for the concourse of the people, for all such public uses as were reserved of old by the Forum at Rome and the ‘Agora’ (called in our English bibles ‘the market’) at Athens, and in more recent times by the great Square of St. Mark in Venice; or by the ‘market place’ in many a city of those low countries, with which some of our founders had been familiar before their coming to this New World" [see Early British and American Public Gardens and Grounds].

According to 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. They became the most architecturally developed buildings at the scale of the county, and increasingly combined permanent materials, regional architectural forms, and cosmopolitan classical features imported from abroad. The floor plan was adapted to include the special features required for local government in Virginia. Courthouses began to include a semi-circular seating area for the judges facing the entrance that, as we have seen, was ultimately derived from the curved ends of the basilicas where justice was administered in the Roman forum.

The building was the scene of a solemn enactment of the rituals associated with the administration of justice at this local and most familiar level. Although the deferential society of Virginia enforced a clear demarcation, socially and architecturally, between the sitting justices and the majority of the county's population, the local scale meant that justice (at least for the free members of the community) was rooted in the close relationships of all the participants. These included the justices, the plaintiffs, the jury (when empaneled), and the spectators, each of whom took a part in the action. 

The Virginia Capitol preceded Jefferson's successful 
campaign for a proto-typical county courthouse by some 
years. As he hoped, the temple form eventually prevailed 
over older courthouse types. The architectural relationship 
of many courthouses to the Capitol underlines the 
hierarchical connections between local and state government.
The Charlotte County Courthouse (1823), part of the
transmission of Jefferson's program of revised civic 
architecture across every level of government. After the 
1820s, versions of the temple-form courthouse became 
closely associated with county government.

With increasing prosperity in the nineteenth century, county leaders sought to replace their aging public buildings. Thomas Jefferson proposed a new prototype for the courthouse that was very influential in determining the form that Virginia courthouses would take for next 100 years. According to Charles Brownell, Jefferson made the case for a temple-form building, scaled and ornamented appropriately for local government, using Palladio's Tuscan order to "wrap" the traditional basilica form that had been developed in Virginia over the previous two centuriesThe eighteenth-century piazza was replaced by a classical pedimented portico, but the floor level remained nearly at ground level, where it continued to provide a transition between interior and exterior and act as a sheltered place to transact legal business, make deals, and take cover in the busy, fair-like atmosphere associated with the special days on which court was held. 
The Goochland County Courthouse is one of the finest examples of Jefferson's program to improve the quality of civic architecture at the local level. 
The Tuscan order as employed here results from a careful inculcation of classical principles among a cadre of designers and workmen.
The courthouse square received an increased level of attention in the first decades of the nineteenth century. County officials began to place new buildings in symmetrical locations flanking the courthouse and to clean up the roughly kept grounds. At the same time that the public square (Capitol Square) in Richmond was landscaped and enclosed with an elegant iron fence, counties began to make efforts to order the local landscape by adding ornamental gates, fences or brick walls, intended, not only to prevent the entry of cattle and pigs, but to set the public square apart from the rural land for civic use. 

Hanover Courthouse by Benson Lossing. This drawing documents the Courthouse Square in the early 1850s. Note the well and the trees surrounding the courthouse and how the paths from the tavern (center), the jail (right), and the clerk's office (left) run through the arcaded porch.

For example, Goochland County saw an intensification of activity related to the courthouse that begin in 1820. County leaders were clearly resolved to upgrade the architectural character of the public buildings and the square in which they stood. A higher level of expense was required to achieve these goals in response not only to increasing prosperity, but to the program of architectural improvement widely promoted by Thomas Jefferson. These included the use of permanent materials and improved adherence to normative standards of classical design. The county went great lengths to improve the square. A new post and rail fence with handsome gates was built round the square and it was planted with ornamental trees in the spring of 1820. The county court ordered a brick wall to enclose the square in 1840.

The Goochland County Public Square in 1929. The "crier's platform" shown is otherwise
 undocumented, may also be associated with the location of the stocks and pillory
 [Goochland County Historical Society].   

The courthouse square was the scene of the county’s shared social and political life: festive court days, somber executions, political rallies, and the celebrations associated in Virginia with voting days. As new civic buildings were added, they were often placed to flank the courthouse, following the tripartite form used earlier at grand Virginia plantation houses. These were ultimately derived as well from eighteenth century pattern books with Palladian origins. When the Hanover County court added a clerk's office in the second decade of the nineteenth century, they carefully placed it as a dependency to the side of the main building. Later, when they built a new jail, it was placed in the corresponding position at the other side.  A similar layout can be seen at nearby Goochland County's public square, where the courthouse of 1827 is flanked by the jail and the clerk’s office, dating from 1825 and 1847, respectively. 

Goochland's Public Square in 1915. The one-story Clerk's Office is at the far left. Note
 the three building along the rear line of the square. Other privately owned buildings stood
 along the sides and front (see 1929 map above) [Goochland Historical Society]. 

In many courthouses, landholders bordering the public square sold off in small lots for use in constructing law offices, inns, and even Masonic lodges. This can be seen in miniature rows of tiny law offices opening off the public squares in towns like Woodstock and Culpeper and in the several brick and frame structures that around the square in early twentieth century Goochland. Even thought these lots were not located on official streets, their owners thought it appropriate to informally front their private buildings directly on the green, as a kind of nascent urbanism.

Powhatan Courthouse Tavern, Powhatan County, Virginia a late eighteenth- or early nineteenth-century tavern [Powhatan County Historical Sites].

Hanover Tavern, dating from 1791, placed directly across the main road from the courthouse [VDHR].
The Goochland Courthouse Tavern, operated by Benjamin Anderson, stood directly
opposite the courthouse. An "Old Tavern" and a lodging house stood on either side of the square,as can be seen in the plat below [Goochland Historical Society]. 
1822 Plat of the Goochland County Prison Bounds (area within which certain prisoners
 were allowed to move about). It shows the T-shaped courthouse that proceeded the
 present 1827 courthouse, the taverns, stable, and the old jail [Goochland County Deed
 Book 25: 325].

In rural courthouse communities, the tavern, located along one side of the square, provided the essential counterbalance to the courthouse. At Hanover, the rambling tavern, rebuilt in 1791 and enlarged several times afterwards, faced the courthouse from across the road. It served as a home for visitors from outlying parts of the county during court sessions. It was the setting for much of the social exchange that bound together farmers and planters at the county level. By the late eighteenth century, Virginia taverns in the both urban and rural locations often were fronted with a long porch for warm-weather seating and social life.

In Cumberland County, the courthouse of 1778 did not face the tavern. In 1818 the new courthouse was positioned directly across from tavern. As Marc Wagner observed,
whether or not it was intended, the "interesting relationship of portico facing portico . . . created a town center where outdoor gathering would have had appropriate ceremonial legitimacy [NR nomination, Section 8, footnote 6]."

In its fullest form, the extended tavern porch formed one side of a partially enclosed public square. It served as the counterpart to the piazza of the courthouse, each symbolically extending toward the other. Together, they represented a porous boundary for the model of the civic realm that was enacted each month in the public square.