Menu

Texas Brazos Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Courthouses


Hamilton County Courthouse
Hamilton County Courthouse

ORDER IN THE COURT!

An outbreak of ruckus in the courtroom often served as stagecraft in many of the most entertaining stories about early law and order in the Lone Star state; flimflamery meets calamity, on display in some of the state's most venerated performance halls. Most days, however, the courtroom drama is far more serious. Attendant courthouse activities in each of the state's 254 counties include a daily routine of issuing licenses, keeping records, assessing taxes, judging misdemeanors, and, most importantly, providing a forum for our elected officials to perform the duties and responsibilities of a civil, self-governing society. Perhaps that's why we place our courthouses at the center of our communities and employ enduring styles and materials for their construction. Courthouse designs across the state, in fact, serve as a compelling record of our social evolution, revealing a journey from our antebellum society's obsession with Greek Revival grandeur to our love of Victorian frivolity, Beaux-Arts classicism, Art Deco modernity, and our embrace of post-World War II simplicity. Courthouses transcribe our society's civil progression forward and their doors are almost always open 9 to 5, Monday-Friday, meaning that an examination of the journey can be enjoyed at your leisure. (Scofflaws, however, aren't so lucky.)

COURTHOUSE CLASSICS

Early citizens of the Texas Brazos Trail region, much like many folks residing in communities established mid-nineteenth century, often expressed their greatest aspirations in their courthouse designs, a manifestation that resulted in monumental works and intricate architectural features. It’s not surprising considering the courthouse was where everything from life-changing jurisprudence to the minutia of legalese took place on a daily basis. The earliest courthouses, however, were often simple log, frame or brick buildings until consecutive structures replaced them as counties flourished. Limestone County, a Brazos Trail Region member, built four different courthouses before constructing the first truly permanent design, a two-story brick and limestone structure with a three-story clock tower completed in 1892. It burned (the fate of many early Texas courthouses) and its replacement, a Classical Revival monument with Beaux Arts influences, remains standing today. The Bosque County Courthouse, a Renaissance Revival edifice with Gothic influences, and the copper-domed Williamson County Courthouse tell similar stories, reflecting the changing influences of both circumstance and character. Both Bosque and Williamson along with Grimes, Hamilton, Lee, Leon, and Milam County Courthouses are among the participants in the Texas Historical Commission’s courthouse restoration program designed to rescue and revive some of the most important heritage architecture in the state.

Map of Theme

= Site  = City

The Texas Experience - Ralph Yarborough Presents County Courthouses
Donor: Jim Ruddy
Sound | 1986
Film courtesy Texas Archive of the Moving Image

Produced by Jim Ruddy and presented by the Shell Companies Foundation and the Texas Committee for the Humanities, The Texas Experience presents the history of Texas through a series of one-minute clips. Each clip features a celebrity narrator briefly exploring a specific aspect of Texas history or culture, with topics ranging from early women settlers to Buddy Holly's short but influential career. In this episode, U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough introduces the symbolic role that the county courthouse played in Texas communities.

 

Texas State Historical Association logo
Read more about Texas county courthouses in the Handbook of Texas Online.