Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Kerr County Courthouse

The exterior of the Kerr County Courthouse (Kerrville, Texas) may not appear as ornate as other Texas Courthouses and it is not on the National Register of Historic Places, but it does have an interesting history and architectural features that are worthy of exploration.   
Designed in the Classical Revival style the building also has influences of the Italian Renaissance Revival style that are easily discernable. Notice the broken pediment above the front door and the columns on either side? That's a very common feature of the Classical Revival style favored from 1895 to 1950. The round arch entrance is typical of the Italian Renaissance Revival style favored between 1890 and 1930.
The 1926 Courthouse in active use today was constructed to replace the 1886 courthouse designed by noted architect Alfred Giles. Local legend attributes the need for a new courthouse to a fire in 1925; however, newspaper sources explain that the 1886 courthouse needed major repairs as well as a fire proof vault. Sources indicate that materials from the old courthouse were re-purposed in various locations around Kerrville. This is Kerr County's fifth courthouse since its creation in 1856.
Adams & Adams of San Antonio, Texas was awarded the contract to design the new courthouse; W.C.Thrailkill would serve as contractor.

Details of the front entry showing the Classical Revival style 

The third floor barely visible in the picture served as the County's original jail.  A kind deputy was happy to give a friend and me a behind the scenes tour and led us up the narrow stairs into this area. The original cells and still working door mechanism are still in place.  On a funny note it is where the Courthouse's Christmas decorations are now stored.  Contrary to local legend he assured us that no one was ever hanged inside this Courthouse and that none of the Al Capone stories are true!

The roofline balustrade is an example of both architectural styles while the dentiled cornice is a Classical Revival influence. 
The rusticated type stone at the ground level is an Italian Renaissance Revival influence.

Original Courthouse and attached 1977 Annex
1977 Annex  
By the mid-1970's Kerr County had grown significantly and there was a need for more jail space.  An annex designed by A.B. Swank and Lester B. Whitton and built by Waco Construction, Inc. was completed in 1977.  However, it was quickly outgrown and a new, separate jail was constructed. The annex was converted into modern court roooms. Many thanks to the very friendly deputy who let us see this room!

Original doorknob on office in basement

Basement office door

Detail of benches in hallway between Courthouse and Annex

Tile flooring in main entry
The stately Kerry County Courthouse is a perfect example of the blending of architectural styles as well as an old building continuing to serve the people of the county in a very modern way.

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