Texas has a grand variety of historic county courthouses. Many of these historic county courthouses exist today, in part, because of an act passed in 1881 by the Texas legislature authorizing counties to sell bonds to finance the construction of new courthouses. This change of state law combined with the prosperity that followed the Civil War and Reconstruction eras gave birth to what is commonly called the “Golden Era” of courthouse building in Texas.
In the years between 1880 and 1900 many Texas counties built imposing new county courthouses. Typically these buildings sat at the center of the town square and were symbolic of the soundness of the town and local government. These courthouses were built in strongly expressive architectural styles. French Second Empire and Romanesque Revival architectural styles were most prevalent during this era. Both of these forms express old world grandness and permanence through form. Without a doubt, permanence was just what the average citizen longed for after the uncertain decades of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Texas county courthouses were added to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Properties list in 1998. Texas responded by creating the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program in June of 1999. In the decade that followed many old county courthouses have been preserved, restored, and modernized thanks in large part to several rounds of funding provided for by the Texas Legislature.
Today, North Central Texas has more than its share of golden era courthouses. These buildings are both pleasing to see and interesting historically. Over several years I have visited many of these grand old public buildings. I’m sharing here my understanding of these persevering Texas landmarks. If you find my coverage of this subject less than complete, I encourage you to look beyond my work. There’s a wealth of information available to those interested in the history of Texas county courthouses. Most of all, these wonderful old structures are all here today — available to drive by and see at your leisure, just as they have been for over 100 years.