Since Texas was once part of the America’s western frontier, many of its historical places are newer than those on the East Coast. Combine that fact with the societal obsession with the progress that afflicted the 1950s, and you’ve got a recipe that spells disaster for Texas’s oldest structures.
Fortunately, some counties have preserved their history, as outdated as the buildings may have seemed throughout the years. Today, there are still many beautiful examples of historic Texas courthouses scattered all across the Lone Star State.
Tarrant County Courthouse
If visitors to the elegant Tarrant County courthouse in Fort Worth find it somewhat familiar, that’s because the pink granite building is built in a similarly to the Texas state capitol building. Completed in 1895 by the architectural firm Gunn & Curtiss, the Tarrant County Courthouse rests in Fort Worth and was restored in 2014.
Harrison County Courthouse
Situated in the Harrison County seat of Marshall, Texas is the famous Harrison County Courthouse. The east Texas gem has quite a bit of historical significance in the Lone Star State. The first civil rights sit-ins in Texas took place on its lawn in March of 1960, when black students from two local colleges were arrested for trying to eat lunch at segregated lunch counters.
Ellis County Courthouse
A story of scorned love is chiseled into the edifice of the Ellis County courthouse in Waxahachie, Texas. Local legend says the stone mason who worked on the courthouse fell in love with Mabel Frame, the daughter of the local boarding house landlord. The lovelorn mason carved her face into the recesses of the building, but when she resisted his advances, his carvings turned from angelic visages to demonic faces.
Caldwell County Courthouse
Famed English expat Alfred Giles designed the Caldwell County courthouse in Lockhart as well as several other historical structures around Texas, including the Goliad County courthouse. If you visit the Caldwell County courthouse, be sure to stop at one of Lockhart’s many mouth-watering barbecue establishments, since the county seat of Caldwell County is known as the Barbecue Capital of Texas.
Newton County Courthouse
The people of Newton were shocked when an electrical fire in the attic almost decimated the town’s nearly 100-year-old court house. After extensive renovation, the pride of Newton County stands as one of Texas’s most beautiful historical buildings.
Old Blanco County Courthouse
The Old Blanco County Courthouse, as it’s now known, only served as a house of law from 1886-1890. When the county seat moved to Johnson City in 1890, tenants used the structure for offices. In 1986, a private citizen purchased the building, prompting a massive effort to renovate the building’s exterior. In 1998, Governor George W. Bush presided over the courthouse’s reopening. The old Blanco County courthouse was also used for scenes in the 2010 remake of True Grit.
Presidio County Courthouse
The Presidio County courthouse in the tiny west Texas town of Marfa is a beautiful building with an interesting history. A local story claims a cowboy once shot out the scales from the statue of justice that presides over the structure’s dome, exclaiming “There is no justice in Presidio county.”
Fayette County Courthouse
Named after the famous Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette, it’s no surprise that the county seat of Fayette County takes its name from the French word for “the barn”. It was built in 1891 by Texas architect James Riely Gordon, who was only 27 years old at the time. Gordon also designed the Victoria County courthouse, but was fired from that project for not adhering to the requirement that he be present every day of its construction. Despite this setback, he went on to become one of Texas’s foremost architects of the 19th century.
Dallas County Courthouse
Known as “Old Red,” the Dallas County Courthouse has a storied history, not just in Texas, but nationwide. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza, and the murder trial of Jack Ruby was held just across the street at the Dallas County Criminal Courts building.
Hopkins County Courthouse
Located in Sulphur Springs, Texas, the Hopkins County courthouse is one of Texas’ few historic courthouses that still operates as a courthouse. Designed by famed Texas architect James Reily Gordon, the Hopkins County courthouse utilizes pink granite and red sandstone, as both materials are found in abundance throughout the Lone Star State.