Introduction to Chatham's Architecture

By Henry H. Mitchell

Along Lanier Avenue

Welcome to Chatham, Virginia, and its compact yet remarkably complete collection of over two centuries of architectural examples.

Chatham is small, and its occasional expansions have been quite modest. As a result, its buildings are not found in large groups of similar design. Representative examples of various decades — and even centuries — are intermingled and juxtaposed. In a textbook sense, some of the original context of the earlier buildings has been “lost.” However, in a living sense, the town has developed within its original scale, allowing even some of the oldest structures to be utilized continuously for the purposes of their original design.

Established as a courthouse town, geographically-centered within Pittsylvania County when its western territory was cut off and reorganized in 1777, Chatham still serves as its founders intended. That it was chosen not for transportation, industry, commerce, or any other reason besides convenience of local government administration, also means that vicissitudes of transportation, industry, and commerce have had minimal impact through the years. Town life quietly goes on. This is not a re-enactment or a re-creation. Chatham is “real.”

Chatham developed as a walking and horseback town. At the end of its first century, the trains finally came. A half-century later an arterial highway evolved, but within another half-century it bypassed the town, almost simultaneously with the de-activation of the town's railroad station. Through it all, pedestrians go about their activities. Homes, businesses, post office, courthouse, and churches are within short walking distance of each other.

So walk, observe, absorb, and enjoy Chatham and its architecture!

This website and its portal are sponsored by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House, Chatham, Virginia.