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Courthouse Historic District

The Historic District was approved on June 17, 1998, by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and placed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 24, 1998. The Museum is located in the Historic District.

An exhibit with photographs and artifacts on the Courthouse Green Historic District, as well as a Touch Screen video introduction to the District, is located on the first floor of the Museum.

King and Queen Courthouse

King and Queen County was formed in 1691 and named for William and Mary, then ruling as King and Queen of England. In 1691 Edmund Tunstall deeded one Acre of his lands to the recently formed county for use as a courthouse. Larkin Chew, carpenter, executed a bond in Essex County for its courthouse in 1702 reciting that it would be the same as the frame building 45′ by 22′ he had built for the King and Queen courthouse. Brick construction of the courthouse and clerk’s office, usually the first two buildings built, came later, probably after the first public buildings were built of brick in Williamsburg beginning about 1705–10.

The courthouse and all records were burned on April 8, 1828. The courthouse was rebuilt on the same site shortly after.

During the Civil War the courthouse and the records were burned again. Union Col. Ulric Dahlgren led a group of about 150 soldiers on March 2, 1864 through King and Queen after an aborted attack on Richmond. He was killed near the courthouse. In retaliation, on March 10, 1864 Union forces burned the courthouse, jail, clerk’s office, and all of the private homes in the village, except the Tavern.

After the County Court held meetings at Pace’s Chapel near the Court House and then in Stevensville, the General Assembly, authorized an election in the county in 1866 on whether to keep the county seat at King and Queen Court House. As a result, the courthouse, jail, and clerk’s office were rebuilt on their same foundations. The first meeting in the new courthouse was held on December 6, 1866.

Before 1895 the building was expanded to 64’x22′ and wings of 32’x23′ added. A vestibule was added in 1895, giving the building its present configuration as shown in the picture above dating from about 1927. An office for the clerk was added to the rear in 1957. The Circuit Court of King and Queen County continues to sit in the building.

An open, low area, once used for stables for those coming to the courthouse in an earlier time, was the site of a 1941 Pageant commemorating the County’s 250th anniversary.

Martin’s 1835 Gazatteer described the village of King and Queen Court House as containing

“besides the usual county buildings, 4 dwelling houses, 2 miscellaneous stores, a tavern, a magazine, and a tanyard. There is in the vicinity a flour manufacturing mill and a grist mill which also has machinery for grinding and packing corn. Population 14 white, of whom 1 is an attorney, and 1 physician, and 40 colored- total 54. This village is proverbially unhealthy, being surrounded by marshes- to this circumstance may be attributed the small amount of population.”

Old Clerk’s Office and Confederate Monument

No date has been set for the building of the first clerk’s office, since it and all records were burned in 1828. An 1840 plat shows the office at its present location. After it was burned in 1864 during the Civil War by Union forces in retaliation for the county Home Guards killing of Union Col. Ulric Dahlgren, the present building was constructed in 1866. The building, with minor changes in the 1930s, was used as the Clerk’s Office from 1866 until the new Clerk’s Office was added to the courthouse in 1957. It now holds the archives of the Historical Society and its Museum.

In 1912 the Confederate monument was erected in memory of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors of King and Queen County.

The walls surrounding the courthouse area were built as a WPA project in the 1930s.


This small building was moved to its location by Roland Allen in the 1920s after a fire burned a row of buildings that housed a garage, a blacksmith shop, an ice cream shop, and a barber shop, all of which would have been especially busy on court days. The present building has been used as a garage, a residence, and for county health services office. It is now owned by Immanuel Episcopal Church.

Old School Building

Built in 1909 as the first two-room school in the area, this building had a movable partition that could be drawn down the middle of a large room to form two classrooms. The Courthouse School opened in 1910 and housed grades one through seven. It was sold in 1932 to the Woman’s Club of King and Queen County, its present owner, who added a wing on the south side for a kitchen. Benches from this schoolhouse are now in the Log Schoolhouse behind the Museum.

Martin Tavern Site

It is believed a tavern was located at King and Queen Court House at least by 1716, because a traveler with colonial Gov. Alexander Spotswood reported they had “dined and tarried” there. An 1840 plat shows Ben Hart’s Tavern located on this site. William Martin operated a tavern on the site when the tavern was burned along with the other buildings in the village in 1864. In 1913 Dr. William Hoskins built the present house, which reportedly was the first house in the county built by a contractor. In 1918 Roland Allen bought the house, now known as the Allen House on Allen Circle.

Immanuel Episcopal Church

Built in 1884, this church replaced the Quintinoco Episcopal Church, which was located about two miles from King and Queen Court House and burned in 1871. The sundial shown in the picture was from the colonial Upper Church of St. Stephens Parish, or Apple Tree Church, and is now on exhibit in the Courthouse Tavern Museum.

Oliver-Allen Store and Bird-Oliver House (now demolished)

The Oliver-Allen Store, thought to have been built in 1864 by William Bird after an earlier store on the site was burned, was operated by Spotswood Bird, and then his partner Roland Allen, after Spotswood Bird’s death. After Allen’s retirement it was operated by his brother-in-law and partner, Claiborne Oliver. The Bird-Oliver House was built about 1900 by Spotswood Bird, brother of Mary Ella Bird Purcell. The County purchased and demolished the buildings when constructing the new Courts and Administration building.

The Bird-Oliver House (not shown), once located next to the Oliver-Allen Store, was built about 1900 by Spotswood Bird, brother of Mary Ella Bird Purcell, who lived in the Tavern that became the Museum. The County purchased and demolished the Oliver-Allen Store and the Bird-Oliver House when building the new Courts and Administration Building.

Tunstall-Pollard-Taylor House

This house is believed to be the site of the home of Edmund Tunstall where the county court of New Kent met on September 29 and October 9, 1690, before King and Queen County was formed. After Tunstall gave the land for the courthouse in 1691, members of his family served as clerks of the Court for a number of years. Robert Pollard, also clerk of the court, was living in the house when it was burned with the other buildings in the village in 1864. It was promptly rebuilt on the original foundations. Prior to his death in 1892, William Bird deeded the property to his daughter Mattie Bird Taylor whose husband, John Taylor, was a deputy clerk to his father.

Log Schoolhouse

The Eastern View Schoolhouse was originally constructed and located at Eastern View Farm, near Owenton, King and Queen County, Virginia. It was constructed about 1870, used first as a private and then a public school until about 1903, and was the last remaining log schoolhouse in King and Queen County. Donated by Marian Minor, owner of Eastern View Farm, it was moved to the present site behind the King and Queen Courthouse Tavern Museum and rehabilitated by community volunteers in 2004. It is furnished as an late 19th-century log schoolhouse.

Adjacent to the Log Schoolhouse is the bell from the old Marriott School, located near St. Stephens Church, that burned in the late 1930s and was rebuilt shortly thereafter without the need of a bell.

Carriage House

The Carriage House located behind the Museum was built in 2009 to house the restored Franklin Buggy Company buggy that had been used in King and Queen County for more than 100 years. Harnesses and other equipment used with a horse-drawn buggy are also displayed. The building also includes the interior facade of the Stevensville Post Office, closed a number of years ago, as well as post office furnishings and old stamped envelopes once mailed in King and Queen County. A commemorative envelope may be purchased at the Museum Shop.