The English roots of Fredericksburg are no more apparent than here, where the town hall was situated adjacent to the Market Square and next to the former Anglican Church (now St. George’s Episcopal). In Fredericksburg, as in towns across 18th Century England, this admixture of church, government, and commerce was the heart of the community.
The present building was opened in 1816. Its first floor was open to the square and served as a covered marketplace. Hooks for hanging merchandise are still visible on the walls. The second and third floors housed the town council chambers, public spaces for meetings, a library, and occasionally local businesses. The market house, whether linked directly to the offices of government or merely located in the same area, was the quintessential expression of 18th and 19th –century community in the US. For nearly two centuries, this site was the political and social heart of Fredericksburg.
To this building came the Marquis de Lafayette during his triumphant tour of 1824. Here too, town leaders passed laws governing slaves, the passage of livestock through the streets, and permitting the development of new subdivisions as Fredericksburg grew. Confederate General William Barksdale used the building for his headquarters during the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862. By 1902, the town hall/market house became solely used for government with the City of Fredericksburg retaining offices and the council chambers in this building until 1982.
In addition to exhibition space to share the history of the region, the Town Hall/Market House building continues to be a space for parties, meetings, and business engagements. Each July, the new City Council pledges their oath to the community in the original Council Chamber.