Monday, February 6, 2017

Blanco County Courthouse

The Blanco County Courthouse in Johnson City, Texas has been serving the citizens of Blanco County since its construction in 1916. It was the first permanent courthouse built after the seat of government moved from Blanco to Johnson City in 1890 following a series of elections.  Earlier posts covered the Old Blanco County Courthouse and its interior.

Henry T. Phelps (Alamo Stadium and Atascosa County Courthouse) was the architect.  Interestingly this is the plainest and most non-descript of the many buildings he designed.  James Waterson, a Scottish stonemason who had also worked on the Texas State Capitol, served as the contractor for the limestone building.

During the Christmas the Courthouse, like many courthouses, is draped in lights and illuminated each night.  Johnson City incorporates the Courthouse lighting ceremony into their Christmas celebrations.

The Courthouse was built of native limestone using a traditional cross-axis layout plan.  The Classical Revival style building appears to have had no serious exterior modifications since its construction although sources indicate repairs to the cupola and roof were undertaken in the late 1990's. Each side of the building features Doric columns and an arched entrance topped with a keystone brick design.   The pediments and other features are said to give it the appearance of having Greek porticos.  

The Courthouse was designated a Texas Historic Landmark in 1983. A Texas Centennial marker denoting the history of Blanco County is installed on the north lawn.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hinds County Armory

On a recent trip to Jackson, MS I happened to be on the grounds of the Mississippi Fairgrounds and noticed this building that appeared to be a church.  A short walk down to the building and I was deep into a mystery.  What was this building?  No marker, no cornerstone, just a boarded up entry and broken windows.  I could tell that at one time it was a grand building and that it still appeared to be in stable condition, other than missing windows and boarded up doors. 

It wasn't a mystery for very long.  A little searching and its identity was revealed.  This is the old Hinds County Armory that had been built in 1927 and used by the Mississippi National Guard as their training facility for almost 50 years. During World War II departing Mississippians mustered out from this building. It also served the community as a place for various social events.

Designed by architect Frank P. Gates the Armory is considered to be a rare example of a early 20th century Gothic Revival style architecture in a non-religious building. In addition, it has the distinction of being the oldest Armory still remaining in the State.

Although the building had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 and designated a Mississippi Landmark in 1986, time had not been too kind to it.  A flood in 1979 had done significant damage to the roof. In July 2012 the Mississippi State Fair Commission had accepted a $600,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to help preserve the Armory. Construction was under way when a fire broke out and almost consumed the building. 

Today the armory appears to be structurally sound with a new roof and boarded up doors; only a few windows are missing glass.  A peek through the small openings in the side door confirmed my suspicion that it is being used for storage by the Fair Commission.

I hope this classic building can be carefully re-purposed and re-incorporated into the Fair Grounds.  Come on people you can do it!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Who owns the cemetery?

I recently posted on my Small Simple Things of Life blog about a recent visit to a cemetery where many of my mother's relatives are buried (Going Back).  As a child I visited family cemeteries at least once each year, sometimes more.  Today, thankfully, all are still well maintained by loving community members; I try to visit at least every few years and am grateful for Google maps to point me along the way as well as those loving souls that have put up easy to see signs and markers to follow when you get off the main road. I have lamented over relatives from the ex's side of the family that are buried in a small town where the cemetery is cared for by the city, but there are no family members to come and check on the graves from time to time. 

The Texas Historical Commission's blog has featured a short article on cemeteries titled Cemetery Queries. The article gives a brief description of how small cemeteries formed and what can happen after they are abandoned or are no longer in the ownership of the original land owner. Cemeteries don't qualify for maintenance funding, but they can qualify for restoration and educational project grant monies. Cemeteries play a very important role in preserving our past for future generations to understand.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Goddess and the Lady

I honestly thought that I had published this close to the time I published the Navarro County Coourthouse post.  However, I didn't.  I did put it on Small Simple Things of Life, so Click Here to Read the Post and find about the Goddess of Liberty and Lady Justice!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Restored Navarro County Courthouse

A recent post featured the Navarro County Courthouse and a subsequent post featured the Lady Justice statue that guards the entrance of the courthouse.  The courthouse was dedicated a few weeks ago and offered an open house after the ceremony.  Although I was close by in Dallas the timing just didn't work for me (and I had a dog that probably would not have been allowed inside the building even though he is cleaner than most humans and very well behaved). 

Thankfully, the Texas Historic Commission has shared a short film clip of the dedication and scenes of the stunning interior as well as a description of the columns made using the scagliola method and the little trick they played on a structural engineer!  Lady Justice is also featured with an interesting proposal that her disappearance came when she was donated to the war effort.  Click the link below:

Restored Navarro County Courthouse

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Patti Welder Middle School (Victoria Junior High)

Patti Welder passed away in 1917 just short of her 18th birthday.  Her father, John J Welder, donated 25 acres to the school board in her memory with the stipulation that her name would always remain with the property. A school bond election was held and Patti Welder High School was completed during the 1918-1919 school year.  In 1925 the school board created Victoria College and the College would be housed on the property until they re-located to their own property in 1948. In addition, the district’s administrative offices were located here.

Victoria’s growing population necessitated the addition of more buildings to accommodate the needs of students.  By 1936 it was a sprawling maze of buildings.  In 1936 a new building was added to house Victoria Junior High School.  It housed the administration, a library and four classrooms.  By 1939 another addition was needed.  Two plaques located on either side of one of the front entrances confirm that both buildings were built under the auspices of the New Deal.

In 1949 a new high school was built and named Victoria High School. With the high school and college being relocated Victoria Junior High was the sole occupant of the property and the school was renamed Patti Welder Junior High to fulfill the stipulation that her name remain with the property. By 1961 the campus was in need of serious renovation and a bond election was approved. Several buildings, including the 1918 high school building, were razed and a new wing added to the existing 1936 building along with a new gymnasium, shop, and cafeteria.
Most of the school was destroyed by a lightening caused fire on February 10, 1985.  Pictures from the fire paint a grim picture. The school was rebuilt; however, more research is needed to determine what features other than the fa├žade remain from the original buildings.


Monday, May 30, 2016

Navarro County Courthouse

The 1905 Navarro County Courthouse in Corsicana, Texas, is in the final stages of a renovation/restoration project that is returning it to its original layout and design. The two-year project is close to being completed.  There have been some surprises and setbacks as the work progressed, but the contractor referred to them as "the nature of the beast" in historic restoration projects. Craftsman of all kinds have applied their skills to every inch of the courthouse. (Corsicana Daily Sun November 30, 2015)

This is Navarro County's fifth courthouse.  Corsicana was named the county seat in 1848 and a log cabin served as the courthouse until a permanent courthouse was built at this site in 1853; 2 years later it would burn and then be re-built. Interestingly, one account of the fire that I read revealed that the fire was an act of arson by criminals who were attempting to destroy the record of their indictments! An elaborate courthouse was completed in 1880 and condemned in 1904 after problems with the foundation shifting. 
J.E. Flanders of Dallas designed the 1905 building in the Beaux Arts Classical Revival style. Built of Burnet red granite and grey bricks its original cost came in at $175,000. A 1964 renovation cost approximately $350,000. The current project is partially funded by a $7.5 million bond referendum passed in 2013 of which $4.7 million was a local match for a Round VII $4.4 million Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program grant. Total costs will probably come in somewhat higher as there was the discovery of extensive plaster damage to the walls in addition to the added cost of adding a fire suppression system to bring the building into compliance with city codes.