Editors Note: This post originally appeared in the former “Virginiana” section of Virginia Memory.
When we think of Capitol Square, it conjures up visions of Thomas Jefferson’s venerable Capitol on the hill, Alexander Parris’s elegant Executive Mansion, and Arthur S. Brockenbrough’s public privy. Well, maybe not the latter, but to the ordinary visitor of Capitol Square in the early nineteenth century it was equally important.
The early part of the nineteenth century saw the most significant amount of change to Capitol Square since its formation in the 1780s. In 1816, French architect Maximilian Godefroy was appointed to draw up a plan for the improvement of the “Public Square,” as it was often called. Since Godefroy’s plans do not survive, it is not known whether he first suggested a public privy on the Square. Governor James P. Preston, however, began granting various contracts based on Godefroy’s plan which included landscaping, a cast iron enclosure, a stable, and a public privy. Construction began on the privy, or necessary, in September 1818, when Arthur S. Brockenbrough, Superintendent of the Improvement of the Public Square, contracted William G. Goodson to complete the carpenter’s work and furnish the materials necessary for its construction. Located, appropriately, next to the newly constructed governor’s stable, the public privy was built a few hundred feet south of the Executive Mansion on the … read more »
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Edward Houchins, a veteran of Captain Edmund Curd’s Company of Goochland Militia, petitioned the General Assembly on 10 December 1818, requesting an increase in his forty-dollar-a-year pension. According to the Louisa County resident, he was severely wounded in the arm at General Horatio Gates’s defeat at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina, in 1780. It was this very wound that allowed Houchins to successfully petition the Assembly in 1805 for his current pension. In the 1818 petition, Houchins complained of unusual pain from the lead ball that had become lodged in his arm thirty-eight years earlier. An affidavit from Richard Sandidge accompanying the petition asserts that he saw Houchins’s wife take a poultice of her husband’s arm, thereby producing the bullet. Upon further examination of the bullet, Sandidge determined that it contained pieces of bone from Houchins’s arm. As a result of this evidence, the General Assembly decided favorably on Houchins’s petition for an addition to his pension. Houchins later relocated to Mercer County, Kentucky, in 1821, collecting his pension until his death on 14 April 1846.
Edward Houchins’s petition is just one example of the more than twenty thousand legislative petitions included in the Library’s Legislative Petitions Online Database. According to a note filed with the 1818 petition, the affidavit of Richard Sandidge (containing the extracted projectile) was removed … read more »
On 5 July 1858, the remains of former President James Monroe were transported aboard the Jamestown amid much ceremony from New York City’s Marble Cemetery to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. Then governor Henry A. Wise had engineered the return of Monroe’s remains to his native Virginia. Wise’s Executive Papers contain correspondence between Daniel F. Tiemann, Mayor of New York City, and Samuel L. Gouverneur, Jr., son-in-law of James Monroe, regarding arrangements for the reburial. Architect Albert Lybrock’s design of a cast-iron monument for Monroe’s tomb is also included with these papers.
A lesser-known effort also initiated by Wise was his unsuccessful attempt to have Thomas Jefferson’s remains relocated from the family cemetery at Monticello to Hollywood Cemetery. On 26 June 1858, Governor Wise wrote a letter to Charles C. Wertenbaker, 1st Lieutenant of the Monticello Guard and Chairman of the Committee of Arrangements at Monticello. The Governor wished to receive the consent of Thomas Jefferson Randolph to remove the remains of Thomas Jefferson on July 3rd and deposit them next to those of James Monroe at Hollywood. Wertenbaker’s return letter communicated Randolph’s disapproval of the plan, citing Jefferson’s wish to be buried next to his wife and daughter. In a letter to the Governor, George W. Randolph expressed his disagreement with his brother, but Jefferson’s remains were never laid to rest next to those … read more »