Built in 1886 and designed by Fort Worth architect J. J. Kane, the Bosque County courthouse and its architectural style represent a High Victorian Gothic Revival design with Italianate influences. Upon its completion, the imposing, three-story limestone edifice featured an intricate, clock tower with four clock faces and a statue of Lady Justice, bare-breasted, raising her scales. It was a bold choice for Bosque County citizens although not everyone involved thought it was the right one. The previous courthouse, a two-story stone structure built for $10,000, was only eleven years old when the decision to replace it was made. Construction plans for the new $60,000 design divided the Commissioners Court in an intense political debate that spread throughout the citizenry. Animosity reached fever pitch in 1875 on the day the original courthouse was scheduled for demolition as an armed mob crowded into the streets of Meridian, Bosque county seat, in protest. The incident ended without bloodshed, however, and the new courthouse project moved ahead to completion. Today, Bosque County courthouse is one of the state’s oldest in continual use.
The courthouse’s builders utilized an iron and concrete floor system, representing a significant advance in construction for the time. The ground floor consisted of a rough, four-inch Portland cement concrete slab poured over rubble, then coated with another layer of poured and blocked cement. The second and third floors were supported by iron I-beams, iron arches and concrete, considered cutting edge technology in a predominantly lumber and masonry construction environment. Although having the appearance of strength and solidity, however, the structure was almost destroyed in 1903 when a small bird’s nest next to a flue in the attic caught fire. Meridian firefighters saved the building before any significant damage occurred. The courthouse wasn’t quite so lucky in 1914 when high winds twisted the tower structure and blew down the chimneys. Nor was it after a remodel in the 1930’s, financed by Works Progress Administration funding, which removed the tower and other significant design elements in an attempt to “modernize”. While the reasons given for the remodel highlighted a severe and persistent bat infestation in the courthouse attic, the claim was dubious as a similar excuse was often used during the 1930’s to validate the expenditure for courthouse modifications. In reality, jobs were in short order during the Depression and, when financing was available, a courthouse redo provided work for locals.
None of these changes, however, proved to be irreversible. A full restoration was completed in 2007, returning the Bosque County courthouse to its original 1886 design, including the reconstruction of the signature roof, corner turrets and bell tower. The structural steel and ornamental sheet metal for the new clock tower and corner cupolas were fabricated in Paris, Texas and transported in sections, reassembled on site then lifted by crane into place.
The Lady of Justice statue also reappeared. The original, lost or sold, disappeared after the removal of the roof in the 1930’s remodel. A new version of the statue based on archival photographs of the original and an 1887 catalog of the Blackwell & Mullin Company’s “Victorian Architectural Sheet-Metal Ornaments” was produced as fully-clothed.