Standing Proud


Williamson County's current courthouse in Georgetown — its fifth one — was built in 1911 in the Beaux Arts style, with arched windows and French Neoclassical adornments.

Story by Patrick Beach
Photos by Sarah Beal

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They are the hub of public life in our county seats, the buildings where residents engage in the mundane paying of taxes, the joy of getting married and the very serious pursuit of justice. Everything from land disputes to murder trials unfold within the courthouses of the 14 counties where Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative provides most or some of the electricity.

Many of the courthouses are ornate, architectural beauties that date to the 1800s, usually towering over a town square. The newest was built in the 1960s.

Texas has 254 counties but has a few more courthouses than that because some counties now have more than one courthouse to handle growing demands. More than 240 of them are historic buildings still in use. Eighty were built before 1900. The Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, administered by the Texas Historical Commission, has provided millions of dollars in grants to restore some of these treasures. Nearly 140 are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fire took a toll on more than 100 original courthouses in Texas. Wood-frame construction, open fireplaces, faulty wiring, lightning, underequipped volunteer fire departments and a handful of arson cases were to blame. The limestone, granite and marble used to rebuild grand courthouses in the late 1800s were more fire-resistant.

Texas’ oldest courthouse, dating to 1861, is in Cass County in East Texas, and the newest likely will be that of Aransas County in Rockport, which should be rebuilt by 2021 after severe damage from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

From the stately Greek, Renaissance and Romanesque Revival architecture of the late 1800s to the Classical Revival and Art Deco of the early 1900s, Bluebonnet-area courthouses remain majestic.

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