New book celebrates centennial of Chesterfield Courthouse
Event planned for Oct. 26 includes centennial recognition of Fort Lee
CHESTERFIELD — This fall, Chesterfield County will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the historic 1917 Courthouse. A special event is planned for Thursday, Oct. 26 at 2 p.m. to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the day the cornerstone for the courthouse was laid in 1917. The courthouse sits on the footprint of the original 1749 colonial courthouse, which was demolished in 1916 and replaced with the current courthouse.
As part of the commemoration, the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia, CHSV, has written a booklet, entitled “Two Centennials – A Commemorative History of the 1917 Courthouse and World War I in Chesterfield County, VA”. Historical information was researched and compiled by George “Buddy” Cranford, and edited by Lies van der Linden-Brusse, both volunteers with the CHSV.
Cranford, who retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1981 and currently serves as a board member of the historical society, undertook writing the book to tell the community about the history of the courthouse and about the men from Chesterfield County who were drafted into WWI.
Cranford said that the 1749 courthouse bell is the oldest historic artifact in Chesterfield County. The bell hung in the cupola over the courthouse until it was removed last year. It was restored and preserved this spring and will be on permanent display in the county museum beginning Oct. 26. A replacement bell, made in 1860, has been installed in the courthouse cupola.
“The courthouse was a significant location for the WWI draftees,” Cranford added. “They camped around it while they were waiting for transport to U.S. Army training camps. I feel so fortunate to be able to tell their story in the book, and also on Oct. 26, when we will be partnering with soldiers from Fort Lee to remember the beginning of WWI.”
Fort Lee also is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Camp Lee was established in 1917 as one of the 32 new cantonments to train the burgeoning Army, following the declaration of war on April 6, 1917. In June, the Fort Lee Centennial Exhibit, “Mobilizing for War”, opened in Chesterfield County’s historic 1892 jail. This exhibit commemorates the establishment of Camp Lee, later Fort Lee, as part of the mobilization efforts of the U.S. Army for World War I, and its current status as the center of logistical sustainment for
“The courthouse was a significant location for the WWI draftees, They camped around it while they were waiting for transport to U.S. Army training camps. I feel so fortunate to be able to tell their story in the book, and also on Oct. 26, when we will be partnering with soldiers from Fort Lee to remember the beginning of WWI.” —George “Buddy” Cranford,
the U.S. Army. The Fort Lee exhibit will be on display until November 2018.
Copies of the book are being sold for $10 at the Chesterfield Historical Society’s headquarters, located in historic Trinity Church, 10111 Iron Bridge Road, Chesterfield, online at www.chesterfieldhistory.com or by calling 804-796-7121. All proceeds from the sale of the booklet will go to the 2017-2018 Centennial Committee, which has been responsible for planning for the commemorative event, restoring the historic 1749 bell and acquiring the replacement bell, for the interpretative signage, the museum exhibit and more.
The Historic 1917 Courthouse is a Chesterfield County Historic Landmark, a Virginia Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located at 10011 Iron Bridge Road, Chesterfield.
The historic 1917 Courthouse in Chesterfield County stands on the grounds of the original 1749 courthouse. The centennial celebration of the cornerstone being laid is set for Oct. 26 at 2 p.m.