Three months ago today, I suspended work on my courthouse project due to personal medical issues discussed in a previous blog. At this point I am well into my recovery period and working fulltime at my architectural firm. It's great to be getting back to "normal" activities. I'm ready to begin editing photographs taken earlier this summer and posting new courthouse information. I still have a good backlog of county pages to create and this will keep me busy for the next couple of months. Then, when the days start getting longer, I will take up the courthouse trail in March 2014, visiting some of the remaining 58 counties on my list.
Two weeks ago, on Sunday, August 18, I drove to Angleton and re-photographed the Brazoria County courthouse(s). Upon returning home that afternoon, I felt ill, with a fever and chills. I took a long nap and felt better, but Monday morning I was worse, with fever, chills and pain in my lower abdomen. Thinking I had a "bug," I took pain relievers and stayed in bed. Tuesday morning the abdominal pain was much worse. I visited my primary care physician that morning and was quickly sent to the nearby St. Joseph's ER in downtown Houston. At CT-scan confirmed that I was suffering form severe Diverticulitis, an infection of the colon. The surgeon told me that I would need surgery to remove a portion of my colon and to install a temporary colostomy. I was admitted to the hospital and a day later, Thursday, August 22, I was operated on at St. Joseph's.
I remained in the hospital until the following Tuesday, the 27th, when I was allowed to go home.
I've since learned that only 6% of Diverticulitis cases required surgery. Too bad I fell within this small group!
I am now recovering, slowly and with some pain, from the necessary trauma inflicted on my body in order to save it. I understand that in a couple of months, when everything has stabilized and the doctors are certain the infection is gone, I will undergo a second operation to remove the colostomy and re-attached my colon. Following a second recovery period, I should be good to go.
Given the way I feel today, a courthouse road trip is out of the question. I've canceled my panhandle trip scheduled for September 12-16 and will take a "wait and see" position. Frankly, I may not be able to travel and photograph courthouses at all this fall/winter.
I'm very disappointed, but grateful for the ability of medical personnel to cure me. In the meantime, I'm resting and taking the first steps towards returning to work. Courthouse website work will follow as I gain sufficient energy and concentration. (I have a backlog of 11 new counties to keep me busy.)
UPDATE October 6, 2013
My surgeon has scheduled by second operation for Monday, October 14, 2013. I am eager to is get this surgery over with and begin my recovery! Cheers!
After flying to Dallas on business on Friday, August 2, I took advantage of the opportunity to visit some more counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. This weekend I rented a Dodge Charger from Enterprise. It was dark gray on the outside with a black interior. (It looked a lot like an unmarked police car.) Not exactly an ideal color scheme for very hot, sunny days, but it did gain me much more respect on the roads than the pink Chevy Spark I drove to east Texas in July. And, I found it to be a very comfortable road car.
Leaving Dallas in the afternoon, I spent an hour in slow, bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-35E and I-30 before finally breaking free at the Rockwall County line. On my way east on I-10 I passed the new Rockwall County courthouse. It is certainly a distinctive landmark on the north side of the interstate highway.
North and east I drove to Hunt County, number 188 on my list. I arrived in Greenville, the county seat, as the temperature reached 102 degrees. Parking in the shade of a building on Johnson Street, I took a deep breath of cool air, opened the car door and stepped out into the oven, otherwise known as Texas in August.
The Hunt County courthouse dates from 1928 and was designed by the Page Brothers Architects of Austin. It occupies most of the courthouse square in downtown Greenville. The building is in fair condition. The grand exterior stairs on the south and north sides of the building no longer lead to entrances. For security purposes, the entrance is now on the ground level, under the south stairs. The courthouse interior is worn, but serviceable.
Leaving Greenville in my rear view mirror, I followed I-20 east, into Hopkins County, number 189 on the "Lane" list. My desitination was Sulphur Springs, the county seat. Arriving in the late afternoon, I drove north into town and soon caught a glimpse of the courthouse tower. The 1894 courthouse was restored in 2002. It's a beauty. By now, you should be able to identify the architect of this distictive building without my assistance. Not only does Hopkins County have a marvelous historic courthouse, the town of Sulphur Springs has a beautiful, new public square to go with its stately courthouse.
This is one of the more elaborate courthouse squares I've found in Texas. Especially for a relatively small town (about 15,000 population). The courthouse occupies the northeast corner of the square and aligns its southwest entrance with a diagonal axis of the square. The photograph below is a view from the southwest of the square and the courthouse in the background. A fountain provides a cool playground for children on a hot August afternoon.
I spent Friday night in Sulphur Springs. Dinner and drinks at the Twisted "S" restaurant was excellent, by the way.
On Saturday morning I spent some more time in the courthouse square and even found a local railroad, the Blacklands Railroad, to photograph. (That made my day.)
Moving on, it was a short drive north from Sulphur Springs to Cooper, the seat of Delta County, number 190 on THE list of Texas counties. At 277 square miles, Delta County is one of the smallest counties in the state. The courthouse is a 1941 replacement for a historic courthouse that previously occupied the town square. This rather forgettable building is on a small parcel of land a block away from the town square. Not much more to say about it.
North of Delta County is a Texas town I've been looking forward to visiting for many years: Paris(!), the seat of Lamar County, number 191 on my list. Paris is, of course, the "Paris" of Texas. There's even a 1984 movie with the title "Paris, Texas." (Spoiler: the movie wasn't filmed in Paris.) A town of about 25,000 population, a few miles south of the Red River, Paris is home to a surprising number of historic buildings, including the Lamar County courthouse. I enjoyed my brief stay in the Paris of Texas.
The 1917 era courthouse is a real beauty. Strangely, it occupies the corner of Main and Houston Streets, a block north of the town square. It's actually an urban building type, set near to the street and intended to be viewed close-up rather than from afar. It's in good shape.
Directly across Main Street from the courthouse is the Paris Bakery, my favorite coffe shop in the Texas version of Paris. I stopped by for a cup of coffee and ended up with a wonderful pastry, too. It was a quiet Saturday morning and I enjoyed the opportunity to get out of the heat and rest while looking out the window at the courthouse. In hindsight, I should have stayed longer: the chocolate zucchini bunt cake had my name written all over it!
I had some extra time (or so I thought), so I decided to see another county before visiting Fannin County on my way to Dallas Love Field for my 6:00 PM flight to Houston. West of Lamar County is the aptly named Red River County, now forever known as number 192 on the Lane list. The seat, Clarksville, is named after my favorite uncle and mentor. (At least that's my verison of Texas history.) The town square, seen below, is recently updated and very nice, but comes up short when compared to Sulphur Springs: no public toilets! As you can see, the courthouse is not on the square. It's two blocks north and west.
This is a courthouse I had been looking forward to seeing in person. The architect, a Mr. William H. Wilson, was from Dallas. Having seen it, this 1894 courthouse is now one of my personal favorites. The style is "creative" to say the least. It's technically "Second Empire, with Baroque and Italianate elements." Whatever. The Red River County courthouse was one of the first to be restored via the Texas Historical Commission’s Courthouse Preservation Program. Thank goodness! It's a state treasure. Learn more about it here.
Back in my unmarked police car, I retraced my route west to Paris and continued on through beautiful rolling country to Bonham, the seat of Fannin County, number 193 on the Lane list.
Bonham has a large central square, with lots of land around the courthouse. Believe it of not, this is a W.C. Dodson building,dating from 1888. There's even a cornerstone on the building to prove it. Of course, this doesn't look like a Dodson designed courthouse, does it? That's because it has been, well, remodeled a few times. After a fire in 1929, the original tower and roof were removed. Then, in 1965 the entire courthouse was "modernized" and that's what you see today. I question just how much, if any, of the 1888 building remains within this shell.
Time to go! I got on Texas 121 and headed southwest, towards McKinney. However, upon arriving at the on-ramp to US 75 south I found that the freeway was closed in the southbound direction. Traffic was, shall we say, stopped. Trapped on the on-ramp, I decided to follow some other vehicles and went "cross country" to escape via a nearby county road. Of course, the county road was full of others trying to by-pass US 75. We inched along for a couple of miles and then joined another 2 lane road that was clogged with vehicles from US 75. Long story short. I realized there was no way I could make the 6:00 PM flight to Houston. I checked with Southwest and found that the 7:00 PM flight was full and that was the last scheduled flight on Saturday. (So, I booked a seat on the 5:00 PM flight to Houston on Sunday.) Extending my stay in the "metroplex," I drove on to Fort Worth and spent the night at a hotel on the west side of town.
Sunday morning I was on the road again. My first stop was Decatur, seat of Wise County. I'd first visited Decatur in June 2010. It's a pretty little town with an 1896 James Riely Gordon courthouse in the center of the town square. I'd wanted to re-photograph this historic courthouse and this was my opportunity.
From Decatur I drove west on Texas 114 to Jacksboro, seat of Jack County, number 194 on the Lane list. Jacksboro has a nice town square with several historic stone buildings. It's also home to this1940 era courthouse. Air conditioning seems to have been any afterthought, given the number of window units decorating the sides of the building. On the front lawn is the cornerstone of the 1886 courthouse and its bell.
Next, I drove north on Texas 148 to the seat of Clay County, Henrietta, number 195 on the Lane list. Clay County is another of the Texas counties that line the south side of the Red River. It's courthouse was also designed by the Dallas architect William Wilson, along with a Mr. Tozer (see Red River County). I don't know if this building came before or after the 1884 Red River courthouse. Unlike the courthouse in Clarksville, this building has suffered through several alterations over the years. The original clock tower and roof have been removed and a new dome was added, along with an unfortunate one-story addition in the southeast corner of the building.
Last, but not least, I drove west on US 82 to Nocona, Texas and then south to Montague, seat of Montague County, number 196 on the Lane list. Montague is a small town with a very impressive 1912 era courthouse on a hill in the town square. The building is in good shape, having just been treated to a new roof. There's also a large, new county courthouse annex nearing completion across the street from the historic courthouse.
Who you gonna call? I didn't wait to find out. I had a plane to catch in Dallas. Today I made it with time to spare.
I hadn't visited a new county since #182, Terrell County way back in March. Not that I've been idle. I re-visited nine counties in May and June. And, for the first time since I began this blog two years ago, I was up to date, with a webpage published for each of the 182 counties I'd visited!
But, I longed to see something "new" so this weekend I rented a lovely pink Chevy Spark (see photo above) from my favorite car rental company, Enterprise, and took off for northeast Texas. By the way, the Spark was very frugal with gasoline, averaging over 32 mpg in 550 miles. On the other hand, it's not exactly a "highway" car. Next time I'll get something a little larger, with more horsepower and a different color...
My first stop was Athens (Texas), the seat of Henderson County. Not to be confused with Henderson, the seat of Rusk County, which is nearby. Henderson County is home to, well I'll let their sign speak for itself:
I can personally vouch for this, because my maternal grandfather, Arnold Clark Brannan, was born in Henderson County in 1901. And, my grandfather was surely one of the "best people in Texas." He was the first of four Arnold Clark Brannan's in my family. They just keeping getting better with each generation I suppose.
Athens is also home to this lovely little store, right next to the Henderson County Judicial Complex:
Finally, a visitor to Athens can't help but learn that the town is "the home of the hamburger." The plaque below is on the courthouse square:
For a different take on this claim, click here to learn that the hamburger was not invented in Athens, Texas.
Leaving Athens and the hamburger controversy behind, I drove north to Canton, the seat of Van Zandt County. By the way, my maternal great-grandfather was born in Van Zandt County. Apparently, he realized his mistake early on and moved a few miles south to Henderson County.
Here is the current Van Zandt County courthouse:
I've found that cornerstone don't always get respect. I've seen several that are bisected by downspouts (see Comal County, for example) and others that are hidden by landscaping, but this is the first one I've come across that is a backdrop to landscaping equipment/junk.
However, when a county decides to demolish its courthouse and build a new one they usually keep the old cornerstone for historical purposes. Van Zandt County was no different. Unfortunately, its historic 1896 courthouse was a landmark building designed by the noted Texas architect J. Riely Gordon. Here's the cornerstone on the courthouse grounds, with a lonely eagle that used to grace the tower of the historic courthouse.:
Canton, I learned, is also home to an event named "First Monday." The website says it all - "What started more than a century ago as a flea market has become home to some of the most exciting, cutting-edge home furnishings, antiques and collectibles that can be found anywhere." Take a look at the aerial photograph on their website and be amazed. I was. I was also very grateful that I didn't arrive on one of those weekends.
Next, I headed north to Emory, the seat of the fourth smallest (in land area) county in Texas, Rains County. There I found a delightful little courthouse, dating from 1908. It was easily the best looking courthouse I visited this weekend.
Directly west of Rains County is Wood County and its seat, Quitman. This part of Texas is dotted with lakes and the traffic that goes with weekends "at the lake." Much of this traffic passes directly in front of the 1925 Wood County courthouse:
Saturday, July 12, was a hot, sunny day in this part of Texas. As I drove south to my last destination, Smith County, I was looking forward to a nice, cold Shiner Bock. With that goal in mind, I hurried into Tyler, the seat of Smith County and described as "a natural beauty." Tyler is known for it roses and Earl Campbell, the "Tyler Rose" of Texas football.
The 1955 era courthouse is appropriately sited in downtown Tyler and faces a beautiful park. Alas, the roses were wilting in the upper 90 degree temperatures.
After a good night's rest in Tyler, I awoke on Sunday morning to a cloudy, overcast day. On my way back to Houston I stopped in Nacogdoches and re-visited the courthouse. It's a unique design; as far I can know, it's the only California ranch house styled courthouse in Texas. Not that this style makes any sense at all in the piney woods of east Texas. Here it is, on a busy intersection near downtown Nacogdoches.
The granite panels covering the exterior of the 1977 courthouse were removed in 2012 after one of them fell off of the building. Over the years, rainwater had caused the steel brackets holding the stone panels in place to rust. It was only a matter of time before they all failed. In the fall of 2012, county voters approved a four million dollar bond issue to replace the granite building skin with a new, limestone façade. Included in the design was the removal of the angled base of the building. Turner Construction began work on the new skin on May 6, 2013. I visited the courthouse on Saturday, June 1 and took some photographs of the "naked" building. I will return to photograph the completed project later this year.
This is slightly "off topic" but it's my blog, so what? The Trans-Pecos region of Texas is home to several historic, boutique hotels. I spent 2 nights in Alpine during my recent courthouse road trip. Fortunately, I was able to spend those nights in the Hotel Holland. Actually, I wasn't technically "in" the Hotel Holland. Rather, I was in the Hotel's Dragonfly Cottage, which is a free-standing room near the hotel. Here's a photograph of the cottage (behind the bamboo) with the Hotel Holland in the background, across the alley.
The Dragonfly Cottage is pretty small, but then it only sleeps one person. The Hotel Holland dates from 1928. It was designed by the El Paso architectural firm of Trost & Trost. It's named for its original owner, John Holland, a rancher in the Alpine area. The hotel is across the street from the Alpine Amtrak station.
On top of the bedside table in my cottage was a pair of ear-plugs. Not something I expected to find. Then I realized why. The "Sunset Line" of the former Southern Pacific Railway is less than 100 feet away. At night the sound of passing trains is hard to miss. However, I personally find that sound soothing, so the ear-plugs never left their package. The Hotel Holland is home to the Century Bar & Grill, which I highly recommend. Especially the Bar! For guests, the first drink each day is on the house. The interior of the hotel has been restored and is very comfortable.
A few miles west of Alpine on US 90 is the town of Marfa, seat of Presidio County. Marfa is home to the Paisano Hotel, another Trost & Trost design, dating from 1930. "The Paisano was for the most part a cattleman's hotel for its first 40 years. Ranchers from all over the area had business meetings here and bought and sold their herds from the lobby of the hotel." The hotel is a block south of the historic Presidio County courthouse.
"In 1955 Warner Brothers chose Marfa as the location for the filming of the epic movie Giant. In June of that year the cast and crew including James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson made the hotel their headquarters."
North of Marfa is the mile-high town of Fort Davis, seat of Jeff Davis County. Fort Davis is home to the historic Hotel Limpia, dating from 1912. This rock clad building is across the street from the Jeff Davis County courthouse.
Jeff Davis County is home to the magnificent Davis Mountains and the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. More important, The Hotel Limpia claims to have the ONLY bar in Jeff Davis County, the Blue Mountain Bistro.
East of Alpine, on US 90, is the very small community of Marathon (population 430), the gateway to the Big Bend National Park. Marathon is home to the famous Gage Hotel, yet another design by Trost & Trost, Architects. Built in 1927 by local rancher, banker and businessman, Alfred Gage, the hotel is a landmark in this high mountain valley north of the Big Bend. The town was named Marathon because its terrain reminded Capt. Albion E. Shepard, a former sea captain who had worked as a surveyor for the railroad, of the plains of Marathon, Greece.
Restored and reopened in late 1970's, the Gage Hotel has been expanded in the adobe style.
Last, but not least, there's the El Capitan Hotel (1930) in Van Horn, seat of Culberson County. Yes, it's also the work of Trost & Trost, Architects. They were nothing if not prolific. And, very talented. Van Horn is northwest of the Big Bend region, on I-10 at US 90. It's the nearest town to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
"The building is essentially the identical floor plan of its sister hotel The Hotel Paisano in Marfa. It was one of the five Gateway Hotels in a chain built by in Eastern New Mexico and West Texas. The other three hotels were the Hildago, in Lordsburg, New Mexico, The La Caverna, in Carlsbad, New Mexico and The Gateway Hotel in downtown El Paso, Texas. Besides The El Capitan, The Paisano and The Gateway Hotel in El Paso are still open today. Bassett built the hotels in an attempt to encourage tourism within 200 miles of El Paso."
Friday, March 22 I traveled from Houston to El Paso on Southwest Airlines. 3 days, 8 counties, 796 road miles, and 881 digital images later, I returned to Houston late Sunday night, tired but excited by my first courthouse road trip of the year. This part of Texas, west of the Pecos River, is my favorite. What follows are some representative photos of the weekend. I'll fill in the details in another blog post. For now, here's some eye candy:
I did photograph courthouses. More on this road trip in the next installment of El Paso and the Trans Pecos counties.
Friday, March 22, I begin my first new county courthouse trip of 2013.
I haven't visited a new county since August 19, 2012. My count has been stopped at 174 since that date.
This Friday, Saturday and Sunday I will be visiting the 8 counties of far west Texas. To save time, I'm flying from Houston to El Paso on Friday morning on Southwest Airlines flight number one! That will be a treat.
Arriving in ELP at 9:35 AM local time, I will rent a car and drive to downtown El Paso, seat of El Paso county.
From there, I will follow I-10 east to Sierra Blanca (Hudspeth County) and Van Horn (Culberson County) before turning right onto US 90. My next stop will be Marfa (Presidio County) and then Alpine (Brewster County), where I'll spend the night at the historic Holland Hotel.
Saturday I will visit Ft Davis (Jeff Davis County), Ft Stockton (Pecos County) and Sanderson (Terrell County) before returning to Alpine for the night. Along the way I intend to visit Balmorhea and Marathon, each home to a wonderful natural spring.
Sunday I will return to El Paso via the Davis Mountains and then fly back home to Houston.
This weekend kicks off another year of visiting Texas counties and their courthouses. I haven't finalized my other trips this year, but I intend to visit at least 40 new counties, plus several repeats. My goal is to complete the 254 county circuit in 2014.
On another note, I received notice this week that I will be speaking at the annual Texas Society of Architects convention in Ft Worth this November 9th. The topic: The Transformative Power of Architectural Design in Civic Buildings. Hint, it's about Texas courthouses, new and old.
Happy new year!
In my last blog entry I explained that I don't photograph courthouses during this time of year.
Having said that, I have now broken that rule several times.
My excuse is the weather. It's just been lovely in south and central Texas during the last 10 days.
More like spring than winter. The sun is still low in the sky, but temperatures in the 70's and even the low 80's have convinced me it's time to photograph me some courthouses!
Therefore, while attending the annual state accessibility conference in Round Rock, I took the opportunity to re-visit 4 county seats, beginning with Bastrop on Wednesday, January 23, and then Burnet, Georgetown and La Grange on Friday, January 25.
I arrived in Bastrop late in the afternoon, but there was more than enough light to capture the north facing facade of the historic courthouse. The trees along Pine Street (they're not pines, by the way) were leafless, allowing me to photograph the front of the courthouse.
Friday morning, I awoke in Round Rock and decided the weather was just too perfect to spend the morning in a windowless conference room, so I "skipped" the morning session and drove to Burnet, seat of Burnet County. I'd attempted to photograph this courthouse in June 2011 but the low building and numerous trees defeated my efforts.
The winter sun and spring sky, coupled with bare trees made for a very productive photo session this time. The modern building is still rather low, flat and featureless, but at least it's visible in these photographs.
I told you we're having an early spring -- the bluebonnets are already out!
Leaving Burnet, I decided there was enough time before the afternoon session for a quick visit to Georgetown, seat of Williamson County. Thirty minutes later I was in Georgetown. The courthouse and surrounding square were in good light, enabling me to capture additional views of this very traditional courthouse and square.
A quick south on I-35 and I was back in Round Rock in time for lunch and the afternoon session of the accessibility conference.
On my way back to Houston that afternoon I decided to stop by the Fayette County courthouse in La Grange. Again, the afternoon light was wonderful and I spent a very productive 30 minutes in and around the courthouse square. The James Riely Gordon designed courthouse is an architectural treasure and always worth the visit, especially since the building was fully restored in 2003-2005.
Speaking of restored courthouses, the week of January 21-25, 2013 saw the re-dedication of two historic Texas courthouses: Comal County in New Braunfels and La Salle County in Cotulla. Both projects were made possible by the county citizens and the Texas Historical Commission's preservation program. I'll be re-visiting both courthouses this spring (each one for the third time) and updating their pages on this website.
In the meantime, in addition to updating existing county courthouse pages, I'm making progress in creating pages for the courthouses I've already visited. As of today, I've completed 153 county courthouse pages. I will complete the Palo Pinto County page this weekend, leaving just 20 counties to finish in order to catch up before I go out on the courthouse trail again this spring.
I realized it's been a couple of months since I last posted on this blog.
Another photography project has consumed most of my spare time. And, I haven't visited any courthouses.
For the record, I don't photograph courthouses between October and April for 2 reasons: the sun and holiday decorations.
The sun isn't up very long during these months and when it is, it's low in the sky. It's just not conducive to photographing courthouses.
Plus, many county courthouses are decorated for the holidays and I don't want to photograph them with decorations. (Not that I'm against decorations!)
So, I've been working on editing my photographs and constructing new county courthouse pages. As of today, I've completed and published 141 county pages. Since I've already visited and photographed 174 county courthouses, I have a current backlog of 33 counties.
Over the "off" season I intend to catch up. At least that's my goal.
In addition, I need to revise and update a number of the earlier county courthouse pages.
And, as time allows, I will create additional pages devoted to individual architects and the Texas courthouses they designed. At the moment I'm working on a page for W.C. Dodson.
In the back of mind I'm already planning some roadtrips for 2013.
Happy holidays! See you next year.
Leonard G. Lane, Jr., AIA
- Chronological Order (of my visits)
- County List (alphabetical)
- County Seat 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