"..it is hereby enacted...that an house suitable and fitt to hold courts in and as bigg in dimension att least as the present court house now is, be errected built and finished...within the said limitts of York Towne...." Virginia General Assembly, Laws of Virginia, September 1696
Early in York County's history, private homes were used for courthouses. Five years after Yorktown's founding, the colonial legislature authorized the construction of a permanent courthouse. While the location for the courthouse remained the same for 300 years; fire, war and the need to improve courthouse facilities resulted in five courthouse buildings on this site.
In the Colonial period, court day was usually a major social event. It was an opportunity for people from the surrounding area to visit Yorktown, take care of local government business, witness trials and punishment, purchase goods from town merchants, and catch up on news.
In 1997, a new larger courthouse opened a quarter mile south of this location. The old courthouse, renamed York Hall, continues to meet the need of government and community organizations and serves as the seat of County government by housing the meeting facilities for the York County Board of Supervisors.
(left) This 1862 photograph of the third courthouse shows munitions stacked high on the front porch. The courthouse and the Swan Tavern across the street were consumed by fiery explosion in December 1863.
(top right) In 1941, an archeological excavation uncovered the foundation of the second courthouse, showing evidence of the 1863 explosion.
(right) Evidence of the fire that extensively damaged the interior of the fourth courthouse can be spotted around the windows and roof in this 1941 photograph. The building was razed shortly after this picture was taken.
1697-1733 Little is known about the first courthouse, which was probably a wooden building.
1733-1814 The second courthouse was a substantial brick structure. It burned in 1814.
1818-1863 Court was held in private homes until 1818 when the next courthouse was completed. This courthouse was accidentally destroyed during the Civil War.
1877-1940 In 1868, the county moved court to a wooden, unoccupied tenement erected in 1864, and formerly used as a military barracks. In 1876, a new courthouse was constructed at a cost of $5,865. In 1940, a fire swept through the building's interior.
1955-Present In 1941, with assistance from the National Park Service, York County began planning for a new courthouse. World War II delayed the project, but finally in 1955 the Colonial Revival style structure that stands today was completed. The building's interior was extensively renovated after the 1997 opening of the new courthouse several blocks south on Ballard Street.