The Source for Richmond Architecture and Design Information

Lewis F. Powell, Jr. United States Courthouse

Architect: Ammi B. Young; renovations and additions by Mifflin E. Bell, James Knox Taylor, James A. Wetmore
Dates: 1858; renovations and additions in 1889, 1912, 1932
Address: 1000 E. Main St

Originally used as the Customs House and Post Office of Richmond, the Lewis F Powell Jr. Courthouse occupies half of a block downtown, directly south on axis with the Capitol building. The architect, Ammi B. Young, was serving as the Supervising Architect of the Treasury, during which time he was responsible for the design of thirty custom houses and post offices in American cities as well as the Treasury Building in Washington DC. During the Civil War the Courthouse was used as offices for the Confederacy, including that of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who was later indicted for treason in the same building.

The refined, grand Italianate structure was clad with local Petersburg granite over brick bearing walls and had a wood, inflammable roof, materials which protected it from the fire of 1865, one of only two buildings in the area who can claim to have survived. Young employed the use of structural wrought iron, something very innovative for federal buildings at the time. Quoins on every corner emphasize the solid, gray body of the building, planted firmly on Bank St, with its three porticoes looking up towards Capitol Square.

The growth of federal government in the 20th century caused a need for physical expansion of the building, as the addition in 1912 multiplied the building’s size by more than 12. Numerous other alterations, including an Art Deco annex, window replacement, interior floor demolition and addition and expansion of wings, while in keeping with the aesthetic style, have dramatically changed Young’s original image of the governmental structure. The building’s longevity, historical function and architectural prominence are not overlooked in Richmond; efforts in 1999 restored the Greek revival Main St, the latest in preservation efforts.


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