Old Court House
The Museum is housed in Lynchburg’s second court house, completed in the Greek Revival style in 1855. William Ellison, the designer of the building, borrowed heavily from builders' handbooks of the day which provided detailing from classical structures such as the Parthenon. The fluted Doric columns, pedimented portico, and commanding presence on the hill overlooking the James River evoke the classical concepts of the day.
From 1855 onward, the Old Court House was used for a variety of courts: Hustings, Mayors, Circuit, District, Federal, and Juvenile Courts among them. During the Civil War, it was used by the Confederate government for the Quartermaster’s Department, Soldiers’ Aid Society, and the Soldiers’ Library.
During Reconstruction, the Old Court House was used as headquarters for Federal officers and as a Provost Marshall’s office. Returned to its judicial use in the late 1860s, the building contained court activities until about 1970. At that time, the building was in very poor condition and its future uncertain.
As part of America’s Bicentennial in 1976, Lynchburg City Council voted to restore the Old Court House as the City’s bicentennial project and to adaptively reuse the building as a history museum. The museum opened in 1979 and featured a restored Hustings Court and exhibits on the development of the City.
A new chapter in the history of the building began to unfold in the summer of 2000, as a crisis precipitated yet another renovation. A second floor ceiling collapsed in July, leading to an extensive study of the structural condition of the building. The study found that the building had serious structural issues and the City invested almost $2 million in renovations.Once the renovations were completed in 2005, a master plan for exhibits was developed and implemented. The Lynchburg Museum reopened in February 2008 in this historic 1855 Court House building.