9/19/2016 - The Man Who Built Our 1838 Courthouse

Editors Note:  The following article was contributed by our Museum Aide Lead Hatfield.  Thanks Leah!


The Spotsylvania County Courthouse looks much different today than when it was constructed in 1838.  Badly damaged during the War of the Rebellion, the Courthouse was essentially rebuilt in 1901.  Thanks to images, paintings, and official County records over the years, we have a visual and written record of its history.  What we did not have was a photograph of the Architect and Builder.  Mr. and Mrs. Jim  Lang from Texas recently visited with us and added to our historical records by providing us with two photographs of their relative, Malcolm F. Crawford, the man who built our 1838 Courthouse.

Malcolm Crawford below Circa 1860



Malcolm F. Crawford was born sometime before June 22, 1794in Maine. By 1825 he had moved to Nelson County Virginia, and become a master carpenter. His designs were influenced by the architecture of Thomas Jefferson.  Among his contributions, he and then partner, Lyman Peck contracted for the carpentry work on twenty-seven dormitories at the University of Virginia.  Crawford also purchased building lots in Charlottesville from James Dinsmore in 1822 and in 1825 on West Main Street at the corners of 12th and 11th streets.

Crawford, working with Brick Mason William B. Phillips, expanded his business to the local areas around Charlottesville.  He contracted for and built the Nelson County jail in 1823.  In 1825 Crawford, then living in New Kent County, married Amanda M. F. Cravens.  The union would produce 12 children.



In 1827,  he rebuilt Edgehill (above), the home of Thomas Jefferson's daughter which had been destroyed by fire.

He then turned his attention to the public sector in Virginia and over time constructed the Courthouses of Caroline, Page, Rappahannock, and Madison counties.



In 1838, after fire destroyed the Spotsylvania County Courthouse at the Po River on present day VA Route 208, Crawford answered a Notice to Contractors (above) and the Board of Commissioners contracted with Crawford to build a new courthouse for $5,500 dollars on 10 acres of land which was a gift of Lewis Rawlings, owner of the Spotsylvania Tavern, which was located across the road from the new site on the road to Snell.



The Courthouse photographed in 1890 shows Crawford's original design.  The 2nd floor was removed during the 1901 renovation and the building refaced with gray brick.           



Malcolm Crawford Circa 1870

In 1863 due to the war, he moved his family to the vicinity of Valdosta, Georgia where he died on February 20, 1876.