Monday, April 6, 2020

Bandera County, Texas Courthouse

The National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Bandera County, Texas Courthouse begins with the statement

The three-Story rusticated cut limestone courthouse built in 1890-91 with a central clock tower, is the focal point of the Bandera public square, and the dominating architectural feature of the town

And, indeed it is dominating.  From anywhere in this charming Hill Country town that calls itself "The Cowboy Capital of the World" the Courthouse's clock tower can be seen. However, don't look up to see what time it is as the clock face is actually painted on the tower.  Time in Bandera is frozen at 10:10.

Bandera County was created in 1856 and the town of Bandera was designated as the county seat.  From 1877-1891 the county used a coursed rubble limestone building built in 1856 as its makeshift courthouse.  The completion of the current day courthouse in 1891 was a sign of Bandera's post-Civil War prosperity.

B.F. Trester, Jr. of San Antonio, Texas was chosen as the architect. In recent years an intriguing mystery about Trester and the design of the courthouse came to light in the discovery that an identical architectual twin existed in Boone County, KY.  Today, the Boone County Courthouse is altered in appearance, but it's still easy to see the similarities.  To read about this mystery and see comparison pictures click here.

On Friday, July 11, 1890 County Commissioners accepted the bid of William Braden and Sons to construct the Courthouse according to Trester's plans for a sum of $19,914.00. Sometime between that time and February, 1890, Trester passed away at the age of 40 years and County Commissioners appointed A.B. Frankel as supervising architect. 

Trester's death was just one of the delays that would plague Braden in completing the project.  These trials, including the walking off the job by Braden are detailed in The Bandera County Historian, Fall 1991 issue that commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Courthouse's completion. 

This article describes how Braden used itinerant Russian rock masons to cut the limestone blocks from a quarry across the Medina River. Sand for the mortar was dug from along Indian Creek and hauled to the construction site by two local men. The blocks were lifted in place "in four-man slings up staircase-like scaffolds"; as a result there were no lifting holes drilled into the stone blocks.

During 1966-67 the interior underwent a remodeling, although I couldn't tell what might have been remodeled as it seemed to retain many of its original features.  I did notice the wall-to-wall carpet in most areas of the building.  At the same time a one-story addition to the east side of the building altered its fa├žade.  The windows were replace with modern aluminum frames.

Hallway of 1966-67 addition
I966-67 addition in foreground
In 1998 work to stabilize and repair the clock tower/cupola was undertaken after receiving an emergency grant from the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation program.  Temporary shoring was used to stabilize the ceiling above the judges' bench in the district courtroom.  The tower and cupola were reinforced and the metal roof replaced.  Work was completed in 2006.  Just to note I could not find any reference as to when and why the tower had been painted silver. To see before and after pictures click here.

District Courtroom, August 2018
A very kind bailiff or deputy sheriff took me into the courtroom and into several offices to see the original fireplaces. 

 The Courthouse was designated as a Texas Historic Landmark in 1972 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. 

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of the towers of both Throckmorton and Weatherford, but I would have to review to say for sure! Texas does have great courthouses and a great courthouse preservation.