Local History & Profile
Washington Court House is a city in Fayette County, Ohio. It is the county seat of Fayette County and is located approximately halfway between Cincinnati and Columbus. Until 2002, the official name of the city was City of Washington, but there also existed a municipality in Guernsey County with the name Washington (now known as Old Washington). The area was originally settled by Virginia war veterans who received the land from the government as payment for their service in the American Revolution. In 2002, a new charter was adopted, officially changing the name to the "City of Washington Court House" (Charter). The name is often abbreviated as "Washington C.H."
Washington C.H. has an unusual street grid layout. Typically, street grids are arranged east-west and north-south, especially in the Midwest. In this case, the streets in the downtown area, centering on the courthouse building, are arranged northeast-southwest and northwest-southeast. This was done so that all four sides of the courthouse building would receive some sunlight every day of the year. In the traditional grid system, the north side of a building never receives direct sunlight during the fall and winter months.
Washington Court House's first settlers appear to have been Edward Smith, Sr., and his family, who emigrated from Pennsylvania in 1810. Smith and his family constructed a rude house in the thick woodlands near Paint Creek, but their efforts to clear the land were interrupted by his departure for military service in the War of 1812 . Comparatively soon after returning from his martial pursuits, Smith drowned while attempting to cross a flooded creek, but his widow and ten children survived and prospered despite the absence of their patriarch. Smith's descendants remained prominent in Fayette County for more than a century after his arrival from Pennsylvania, although many had left Washington Court House for other parts of the county. A family residence still stands on U.S. Route 62 not far outside the city's eastern boundary.
Numerous locations in the city are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Downtown, the courthouse square has been named a historic district (PDF), and a similar designation has been accorded the city cemetery. Nine individual buildings are separately listed on the Register: Judy Chapel at the cemetery, the former Washington School (JPG), the Fayette County Courthouse, the former William Burnett House.