Saturday morning. I left Houston at 8:00 AM. North on I-45 160 miles to Fairfield, seat of Freestone County. I photographed the Freestone County courthouse (later that day I accidently erased all of the Fairfield photos from my camera) and then continued north to Corsicana, seat of Navarro County. It was Derrick Days in Corsicana! The downtown streets were closed to traffic and thousands of people gathered to eat, drink and enjoy a beautiful spring day. There was some mighty nice people watching! Oh, and more food this way...
I spent some time walking around downtown, photographing the people and the architecture. The Navarro County courthouse is a few blocks removed from the city center and the Derrick Days crowds. The courthouse is an imposing structure from 1905. J.E. Flanders was the architect.
Leaving Corsciana I drove west to Hillsboro, seat of Hill County. The Hill County courthouse is visible for miles across the rolling farmland.
The courthouse was designed by W.C. Dodson and dates from 1890. The building was destroyed by fire in 1993 but was restored in 1999. It's a beauty!
From Hillsboro I drove north on I-35E to Waxahachie, seat of Ellis County. I'd photographed this iconic Texas courthouse in December 2009, on my way with Hilary to the Big XII championship football game in Arlington (Texas defeated Nebraska at the last second!). I wanted to visit Waxahachie on a warmer day, so here I was again. The James Riely Gordon courthouse is lovely. The building's tower is unequaled in Texas courthouses. Here's a view as I approached from the south.
I finished the day with a nice drive to Cleburne, via Midlothian. Arriving in Cleburne, I drove up and over the Santa Fe railroad tracks, with a spectacular view of downtown and the tower of the Johnson County courthouse. The photograph below was taken the next morning, but you get the idea.
The 1912 Johnson County courthouse by architects Lang and Witchell is a curious mix of Beaux Arts massing with details inspired by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. Interesting...
I spent Saturday night at the 1924 Liberty Hotel, a block from the courthouse square. This 4 story hotel has been fully restored and updated. I highly recommend this hotel if you're in the Cleburne area. And, the cost is reasonable.
Other than deleting all of my photographs of the Freestone County courthouse, it had been a great day. I slept very well in the Liberty Hotel, dreaming of courthouses and listening to the sounds of trains passing through Cleburne.
I just returned home to Houston on Sunday evening after driving 700 miles and visiting 8 new counties, plus a second visit to another. Too much to publish tonight. I visited Corsicana (Navaro County), Hillsboro (Hill County), Waxahachie (Ellis County for the second time), Cleburne (Johnson County, where I spent the night), Glen Rose (Somervell County), Granbury (Hood County), Stephenville (Erath County), Meridian (Bosque County), and Fairfield (Freestone County). All of these counties are wonderful examples of the art and architecture of Texas courthouses. It was a remarkable trip. I came back with 585 photogaphs and many delightful memories. I shall post a few photos and more information on Monday. Now, it's time to rest!
I've had time this weekend to work on completing five additional county pages on the website: #64 Nolan County, #65 Fisher County, #66 Kent County, #67 Stonewall County, and #68 Haskell County. Thus far I've created pages for each of the 135 counties I've visited to date, along with a map and brief history of the county and its seat(s). Having done that, I'm back to "filling in" the county page with photographs and information on the courthouse(s) and some context photographs. Expect to see more county pages completed as I focus on this part of the project.
(By the way, the current Kent County courthouse in Jayton is one of my favorites, especially in the "modern" catagory. It's very much "out of the way" and in a very small Texas county, so I doubt many people have seen it in person. Let me know what you think.)
About six months ago I discovered a truly remarkable collection of historic images, predominately postcards, of US courthouses: http://courthousehistory.com The site's author is Keith Vincent. He has collected over 14,000 images of US courthouses and now has at least one image of every county or parish in America! Keith has graciously allowed me to post images from his website. I am in the process of downloading Keith's postcards from Texas to my computer. In a previous blog entry I noted that I'd re-visited the Trinity County seat in Groveton to photograph the newly restored courthouse. When I went to courthousehistory.com to see what Keith had collected I was thrilled to see a photograph of an earlier Trinity County courthouse. More importantly, I recognized it as the work of Eugene Heiner, architect of so many Texas courthouses in the 19th century. H
After seeing this image, I went to my other favorite source of historic information on Texas Counties, The Texas Historic Sites Atlas, found on the Texas Historical Commission's website: http://atlas.thc.state.tx.us/
Sure enough, on the Trinity County page I found a listing for the 1884 Trinity County courthouse by Eugene Heiner, along with a marvelous photograph of the Groveton "downtown" with the courthouse in the background. Here it is:
Looks like an early 20th century road rally! So, I added yet another listing to my page on the courthouses of Eugene Heiner: Trinity County. I wouldn't be surprised if they are even more Heiner courthouses I have yet to discover for myself.
Donna and I drove to New Orleans on Thursday, April 5. On the way, we stopped in Beaumont (Jefferson County) and Orange (Orange County) so I could take additional photographs for this website. It was a beautiful spring day. The Jefferson County courthouse in Beaumont is as impressive as ever. I took some photographs of the 1981 addition to the historic courthouse and a few of the immediate context, including the adjacent Port of Beaumont.
The entrance to the Port of Beaumont is across the street from the courthouse. I took this photo standing in the public right of way (i.e. the street). As you can see, there's not much to "see" at the entrance. Being a port, there are some ships and warehouses in the immediate area. Nothing unusual or unexpected.
I walked inside the property to take a closer look at the propeller. After taking a couple of photographs, I turned and started to take a photograph of the port entrance. At that point a uniformed guard came out of the building and made it clear to me that I wasn't allowed to take photos of the port. Security issues. So, I made my way back to the street and the courthouse. Lesson learned.
I'll be updating my Jefferson County page soon. Here's a detail from the 1932 courthouse.
The courthouse in Orange, Texas is as far east as any in the state, with the possible exception of the courthouse in Newton. On the map, Orange appears to be just a little further east than Newton. I'll check the coordinates later to confirm my initial opinion. Anyway, Orange has a number of significant buildings in its downtown area, but the courthouse isn't one of them. In fact, the courthouse is located a few blocks south of the downtown. I don't know why it was built all by itself. Here's the view from the courthouse steps, looking north. Not much, eh?
The courthouse dates from 1935-36 and was a WPA project. In 1964 a pair of modern wings were added on the east and west. Otherwise, the building appears to be pretty much original.
Orange is home to the very impressive Stark Museum of Art. More on this and other updates to the Orange County page will follow later this week.
Regular readers of this Blog will recall the ongoing story of the repairs to the exterior cladding of the Nolan County courthouse in Sweetwater. The repairs are necessary because the granite panels on the building began to fall off last year! The Sweetwater Reporter posted an article on the project on March 23, 2012.
"Rodney Harvey with Curtainwall Design Consulting led the powerpoint presentation and discussion regarding the state of the courthouse and the options available for repair during the special County Commissioners' meeting on Friday morning, March 16, 2012, in which several steps were taken toward the progress of the Nolan County Courthouse renovations as well as the construction of the new jail and sheriff's offices for the county."
According to the paper, the problems are the result of alleged construction defectives dating from 1976, when the courthouse was built.
"At this time, two proposed remediation options were presented. As the courthouse is not to be completely reconstructed but only repaired, the work done will meet the building codes from the original construction date of 1976."
Hopefully, the new "repairs" will be constructed according to the architect's and engineer's construction documents this time!
"The commissioners approved an amended Option B, which removes the battered wall at the base. A new steel and aluminum framing will be installed along with two to three inches of insulation, followed by the installation of a new exterior. This option bypasses the existing concrete block wall."
The so-called battered walls at the base of the building can be seen in the photograph above. Apparently, the new exterior cladding will installed vertically, eliminating the angled base which, in my opinion, is a good move.
I understand that a contractor has already removed the granite cladding from the courthouse. If anyone is in a position to photograph the "naked" building and send along a digital file or two, I would be pleased to post them.
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Leonard G. Lane, Jr., AIA
- Chronological Order (of my visits)
- County List (alphabetical)
- Texas Courthouse Blog
- James Riely Gordon, Architect
- Eugene T. Heiner, Architect
- Henry T. Phelps, Architect
- Alfred Giles, Architect
- Corneil G. Curtis, Architect
- Wesley Clark Dodson, Architect
- Lang & Witchell Architects
- Voelcker & Dixon, Architects
- Wyatt C. Hedrick, Architect
- David S. Castle, Architect
- Page Brothers, Architects
- James Edward Flanders, Architect
- Pierce, Norris, Pace & Associates, Architects & Engineers