On Saturday, the 26th, we were guests of our friends Joe & Julia Mashburn at their new country home near Fayetteville, Texas. Joe is an architect and faculty member at the University of Houston. I've had the pleasure of his company and friendship since we met in the fall of 1979 at TAMU, where we taught in the College of Architecture.
Joe & Julia named their "spread" Lafayette Farms. It's just across the road from the 19th century Brethern Church, a couple of miles southeast of Fayetteville. The church was built in 1874 by Czech-Moravians.
After the party at Lafayette Farms we spent a wonderful night at the Country Place Hotel in nearby Fayetteville. This historic building on the square is owned and operated by architect Clovis Heimsath and his wife, Maryann. Donna and I had a delightful stay and a delicious breakfast Sunday morning with Joe & Julia and friends before returning to Houston.
Fayetteville square is home to the Fayette County Precint No. 2 courthouse, dating from 1880; thus the connection to this website.
I've suspended my courthouse visits until the spring of 2012, when the days are longer and the courthouses aren't decorated for the holidays.
In the meantime, I've been working on the first 129 counties. My first project is complete: creating pages on the website for each of the 129 counties in the order in which I've visited them.
Now I'm working on filling out the individual pages with photographs and information on the counties and their courthouse(s). Over the last few days I've completed 7 pages, beginning with #020 Uvalde County. Please visit the chronological list of counties and click on each county for a link to that page.
Using the 2010 US Census statistics, the State of Texas had a population of 25,145,561 a year or so ago. Dividing the total Texas population by the number of counties, 254, yields an average population of 98,998 per Texas county. Dragging my mouse over the interactive county population map (http://2010.census.gov/2010census/data/) it appears that Bowie County, in the northeast corner of Texas, comes closest to the average popluation: 92,565.
But what's really interesting to me about Texas counties is the remarkable range of population. The smallest county in the state, Loving County, had only 82 residents in 2010! As far as I can tell, that's the "smallest" county in the United States. By a lot. In fact, by my count in 2010 Texas had 6 counties with fewer than 1,000 residents: Loving (82), Kenedy (416), Borden (641), McMullen (707), Kent (808), and Terrell (984). I've visited 4 of the 6 thus far. They are very, shall we say, empty. I'm looking forward to visiting Loving County. If only to determine how many of the 82 residents work for the county!
On the other end of the scale, Texas now has 5 counties with a population exceeding one million: Travis (1,024,266) is the newest member of this group, Bexar (1,714,773), Tarrant (1,809,034), Dallas (2,368,139), and Harris (4,092,459). These 5 largest counties (about 2% of the counties in Texas) account for about 44% of the state's entired population! And, the remaining 249 counties (about 98% of the counties in Texas) account for about 56% of the state's population.
Needless to say, the significant range in county population in Texas is reflected in the size and number of county buildings, including courthouses, found across the state. Not to mention, the budgets of these counties.
These statistics are chiefly responsible, among other factors, for providing those of us traveling the Texas courthouse trail with never ending surprises around every bend in road; over every hill; and across each county line.
Donna and I spent this beautiful day in Galveston. In particular, I spent some time photographing the 2006 Galveston County Courts Building and other sights in this truly historic Texas city. The new county courts building seen below was completed in 2006 and designed by Bay Architects. The property also houses the Galveston Sheriff's Offices and the Galveston County Jail. The new county justice center is some distance from the 1966 Galveston County Courthouse. Here's the new Justice Center:
I'll give this new building a "thumbs up." It looks that a civic building, which is more than can be said for many most attempts to design contemporary county courthouses in the 20th century. It's not a building that was intended to be located in the center of town, in a traditional courthouse square, but rather, a one-sided design intended to be viewed from the nearby I-45 as citizens enter Galveston from the mainland. I was reminded of another new courthouse, the new Zapata County Courthouse that I visited a couple of weeks ago. It was completed in 2005, from a design by Architect Morgan Spear Associates. Here it is:
The Zapata County Courthouse, on a hill overlooking the Rio Grande valley, is a bi-axially symmetrical building, in keeping with the traditional courthouse square layout, although here the building axis do NOT extend beyond the actual property. And, the style, while recalling historic forms and uses of materials, is decidedly contemporary. Architects still have a long way to go to match the urbanism and creativity of many 19th century Texas courthouses. But, for the time, we've moved on from the truly awful 1970's designs I highlighted in a previous post.
And then there's this image of 21st century Galveston:
The one constant on the grounds of each and every Texas courthouse is a monument honoring that county's men and women who served in the military. This is the day each year when we are reminded specifically of their honor, sense of duty, and personal sacrifice. Thank you, veterans!
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