1917 chesterfield courthouse

Chesterfield, VA


5,800 SF



Award of Excellence in Architecture, Virginia Society of AIA

Virginia Historic Landmark

National Register of Historic Places

While conducting a site visit for another project in Chesterfield County, Davis Buckley noticed that the roof ridge of the 1917 Chesterfield County Courthouse was noticeably sagging, and a look inside revealed a badly draping ceiling.  An emergency structural study determined that the chord connections of the four timber king-pin trusses were deteriorated and separating, resulting in a potential collapse of the roof.  


DBA immediately designed interim bracing for the failing roof, inserting jacks, steel beams and scaffolding into the main courtroom to halt the progressive collapse of the roof structure. Following this temporary stabilization, the team performed a full structural study and developed a design to jack the trusses closer to plumb.  Metered hydraulic jacks at bearing points below the trusses were lengthened ½” at a time over several weeks, which eventually eliminated 6” of deflection.  Once the roof embers were boosted close to plumb, steel beams, plates and wood blocking permanently stabilized the historic King Rod trusses.  Maneuvering the large steel beams into the tight attic spaces without removing portions of the roof required tremendous ingenuity and foresight on the part of the designers and the construction crew.  The decorative, stained wood ceiling beams in the Courtroom were jacked plumb and inset acoustical panels replace failing adhesive ceiling tiles. 


In addition to the structural stabilization of the Courthouse, DBA replaced 17 steel and timber window lintels and repaired cracks in the brick façade.  In accommodating the shifting structure, the main stair had settled, and it was realigned and reinforced.  Termite-damaged floor joists were sistered or replaced, misaligned subfloor mechanical systems were fixed and wood floors were refinished.  A brick and cast-stone ramp replaced a non-compliant wood ramp, and new restrooms and drinking fountains brought the building into full ADA-compliance.  A redesigned mechanical system replaced large wall grilles in the Courtroom with discrete ceiling mounted linear diffusers, improving the appearance of the main space.  Fire and life safety upgrades included new exit signage, emergency lighting and fire alarm components. 


After three years of closure, on April 29, 2013, County judges, clerks, staff, historians and residents attended a grand reopening of the Chesterfield County Courthouse.  Once the county’s sole civic structure, the 1917 Courthouse now stands as the centerpiece of a large complex of buildings that supports a diverse, expanding populace, a visible reminder of Chesterfield’s illustrious history and the tradition of wise leadership it represents.