Winchester’s Rouss City Hall, constructed in 1900, is a stately masonry building with Romanesque Revival-style detailing. The civic building was built to house various government services, a courtroom, an ornate theater, and a Masonic Lodge. After decades of gradually changing functions, and of eroding and infilling various spaces, the building had significant improvements made in 1986.

The goals for the 2019 renovations were to increase user friendliness and to foster better collaboration between departments. Also important were replacing the mechanical systems and adding 21st century security, while keeping the municipal offices functional throughout continuous phases of construction.

The design approach was to simplify Rouss to “then” (1900) and “now” (2019) built forms. We cleared out the 1986 Postmodern and miscellaneous infill. We exposed the original structure—brick walls and arched openings, as well as newly uncovered cast iron columns, steel beams, historic staircase, and wood joists. New construction was expressed in a distinctly modern manner to contrast with the Romanesque detailing. New acoustic ceiling “clouds” were installed, pulled away from the walls, allowing the original large windows and the building’s bones to be expressed.

The third floor was originally the theater, a two-story space in the center of the 1900 building. The upper story of the theater had been filled in with steel bar joists in the 1950s and with acoustic tile ceilings in the 1980s. The infilled walls and dropped ceilings in this area were removed. The original entrance to the theater was reconstructed. The renovated third floor is now a daylight-filled, open office space. The now-exposed 1950’s bar joists are juxtaposed with Rouss’s oversized historic windows.


  • Builder: Lantz Construction of Winchester, Winchester, Virginia
  • Structural Engineer: Painter- Lewis, P.L.C., Winchester, Virginia
  • Mechanical Engineer: Comfort Design, Inc., Winchester, Virginia
  • Photographer: Nathan Webb, AIA, Reader & Swartz Architects, P.C.