The Princess Anne County Courthouse was constructed in 1822 after county residents had petitioned the Virginia General Assembly to move the courthouse function from Kempsville. This location was chosen because of its central location in the county. The original courthouse complex included the county clerk's office (contained in the courthouse building) and a jail located behind the courthouse.
Princess Anne County Courthouse was the sixth and final courthouse built for
Princess Anne County. Citizens had petitioned the Virginia General Assembly in
1819 to relocate the courthouse from Kempsville to a more convenient location.
The General Assembly approved and appointed five (5) men from Norfolk County to
select the location. They selected a 5-acre tract of land at a place known as
the Crossroads. The county paid $300 for the site from the heirs of Henry
Murden. This area eventually was called the Village at Princess Anne
General Assembly appointed five (5) men from Princess Anne County to sell the
courthouse property in Kempsville and to contract for the construction of the
new courthouse. In August 1820 they contracted with James Keenan to build the
courthouse and a jail for $8,900. The Courthouse was reported to be ready for
occupancy in December 1822. The Courthouse building was originally shaped like
a T with the entrance being at the top bar of the T and the court room being in
the leg of the T. The court room was two stories tall with a balcony. The
entrance area (top bar of the T) had an open arcade in the two central bays.
The county clerk’s office was located in the Courthouse at one end of the top
bar of the T.
courthouse was used by the county justices to conduct the business of the
county and to try civil and criminal cases. The courthouse was also the primary
public building in the county and the courthouse green or square was the
primary location for public activities. Part of the Courthouse property was
identified for lease in 1824 to allow for the construction of an ordinary
(tavern) and other buildings for the “Convenience and Comfort of visitors.” In
the period following the Civil War, county management was vested in a Board of
Supervisors and they conducted the county business in the Courthouse building.
1888 the court room was transformed by dividing the two-story open space into
two separate floors, with the court room being on the upper floor while the
lower floor was divided into offices. The Clerk’s offices were moved out of the
courthouse in 1896 when a separate building was constructed for that function
(it is located just to the southeast of the courthouse). In 1906/07 additions
on each side of the leg of the T made the building the rectangular shape that
we see today. A one-story porch was built on the front of the Courthouse sometime
between 1906 and 1918 and two of the second story window openings were
lengthened into doorways. A gable with lunette window was also added to the front
façade at this time.
1918, the porch had a second story added to it, creating a two-tiered,
full-width Tuscan-columnned entry porch. Due to increased case load, additional
court buildings were constructed beginning with a Circuit Court court room to
the north of the historic Courthouse and connected by an open arcade in 1961. In
1966 the two-story porch was replaced with a full-width portico with five
double height Doric columnns and a brick stoop. The Princess Anne County
Courthouse ceased to be used for judicial functions with the dedication of the
new Virginia Beach Judicial Center in 1993. Today it houses offices for the
Emergency Management Office and the Public Utilities Department.