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 southeast … read more »