A Central Landmark of Local Government
Arlington’s Courthouse has served the community in many ways for over 170 years.
Arlington’s first courthouse was technically not even in Arlington: from 1847 to 1920, Arlington was a part of Alexandria, and the Alexandria Courthouse (which served what is now the Arlington area) was located at North Columbus Street and Queen Street.
However, due to the long distances people would have to travel from the present-day-Arlington area to get to that courthouse, a new site for a County courthouse was selected in Fort Myer Heights, on the Civil War site of Fort Woodbury.
Arlington County Courthouse, date unknown.
This building, which was designed by Albert Goenner, debuted for public use in 1898. The Victorian-style structure was instantly recognizable with its imposing 75-foot clocktower (though a clock was never installed).
Electricity was added around 1913 and adjoining wings were gradually constructed as Arlington’s population grew in the early decades of the 20th century.
The original Arlington County Courthouse, circa 1898, the year it was built.
A bird's-eye view of the Courthouse, featuring one of the later additions to the building.
Due to increasing demands as Arlington continued to grow, the 1898 building was torn down in 1960 and replaced by a more modern building. The seven-story tower was dedicated the following year and joined the existing additions and renovated wings, but the original Victorian-style edifice was fully replaced.
In 1990, a fire broke out in the Courthouse, causing damage and exposing asbestos in the facilities. After decontamination, the 1960s-era building served the County until 1995, when the present-day Courthouse building was completed at a site across the street at 1425 North Courthouse Road (pictured in 2021 in slide three).
The façade of Arlington's second Courthouse, pictured in 1972.
The current County Courthouse at 1425 North Courthouse Road., pictured in 2021
The old courthouse location was used by the fire department for training exercises until 1997, when it was demolished in a controlled implosion. That site is now a parking lot adjacent from the current Courthouse and detention center facility.
You can learn more about the Arlington Courthouse in these articles from the Arlington Historical Magazine, published by the Arlington Historical Society:
- A History of the Arlington County Courthouse, by Jeanne Rose
- Albert Goenner: The Forgotten Architect of Arlington's First Courthouse, by Willard J. Webb
- Symbols of Justice from the Three Courthouses of Arlington, by George W. Dodge