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Fluvanna County Courthouse
Photograph courtesy of Fluvanna County Historical Society

Termed by architectural historian Talbot Hamlin the "Acropolis of Palmyra," this tiny cluster of court structures, dominated by a temple-form Greek Doric courthouse, stands grandly overlooking the surrounding village. General John Hartwell Cocke, the owner of nearby Bremo plantation and a friend of Thomas Jefferson, served as one of the five commissioners who drafted plans for both the courthouse and jail and took primary responsibility for their final appearance. The 1829 stone jail, built by John G. Hughes, is markedly similar to the distinctive brick and stone outbuildings at Bremo. It is now a museum.


Fluvanna County Jail, now the Old Stone Jail Museum
Photograph from National Register collection

Construction of the courthouse, completed in 1831, was supervised by Walker Timberlake, a Methodist preacher who undertook various architectural and engineering works in the county. Fluvanna's is one of the state's few antebellum courthouses to remain without additions and retain its original interior arrangement and many original fittings. The Greek Doric portico of the courthouse features typical Greek columns without bases. Like most antebellum courthouses in Virginia, the columns are not fluted, although that is a hallmark of the Greek Doric order. The Fluvanna courthouse is also distinguished by the extensive use of stone for the column and pilaster capitals, steps, water table, window sills, and lintels. Two levels of windows on the sides as well as the three arched windows at the rear are separated by pilasters. Conspicuously inscribed on the stone lintel above the entrance is: "THE MAXIM HELD SACRED BY EVERY FREE PEOPLE - OBEY THE LAWS."

Fluvanna County Courthouse Historic District is located along Rte. 15, in Palmyra. The Courthouse, still in operation, is open during normal business hours. At other times, access to the courthouse can be provided from the Old Stone Jail Museum, which is open weekends from late-May to late-October, 1:00pm to 5:00pm Saturdays and 2:00pm to 5:00pm Sundays. Special tours or group tours can be arranged by calling 804-589-3704. Tours are available in German, Italian and French, as well as English.


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