Monday, January 25, 2021

Walls at Public Courtyards & Buildings in Early America

Reflection of the Old Courthouse Tower in Washington County, Tennessee.

 In 1706, the act of the Virginia legislature authorizing the building of the Governor's Palace allocated 635 pounds for the construction of the garden with these instructions, "that a Court-Yard, of dimensions proportionable to the said house, be laid out, leveled and encompassed with a brick wall 4 feet high with the balustrades of wood thereupon, on the said land, and that a Garden of the length of 254 foot and the breadth of 144 foot from out to out, adjoining to the said house, to be laid out and leveled and enclosed with a brick wall, 4 feet high, with ballsutrades of wood upon the said wall, and that handsome gates be made to the said court-yard and garden."
By 1723, Rev. Hugh Jones reported that the courtyard was "finished and with beautiful gates." But by 1776, the wooden components of the fences had begun to deteriorate, when note was made in the Virginia Council Journal that they were "Repairing Fodder Houses & paling round the Garden."

Twenty five men were appointed "to repair fences of park" in 1777. And it was recorded that "60 foot of plank, 250 nails" were purchased for the task.

Public Yard - Courthouse Yard

In 1743 Spotsylvania County, Virginia, A workman was hired to "rail in the Courthouse yard."

In 1778 Alexandria, Virginia, a valuable one half acre lot "fronting the whole Courthouse yard and market place" was offered for sale.

A yard is an enclosed division of uncultivated land usually attached to, or enclosed by a dwelling or public building or outbuildings usually defined by a fence or a wall.

Brick walls often surrounded public yards at court houses, state houses, hospitals, churches, cemeteries, prisons, and inns. Wooden fences usually surround yards at private dwellings, but some gentry homes also had brick or stone walls.  By the last quarter of the 1700s, folks referred to the enclosed area, where those incarcerated take exercise, as a prison yard.

The term court yard usually referred to a public or private entrance greeting and meeting area. Because most courtyards were built to receive carriages and horses, they usually were located on the road side of coastline houses, not on the water-facing facade.

Often colonials & early Americans would simply refer to their yards, Occasionally writers, especially visitors from England or the Continent, would leave the term yard off of a description of a court yard, simply referring to a court.