TexasEscapes.com HOME Welcome to Texas Escapes
A magazine written by Texas
Custom Search
New   |   Texas Towns   |   Ghost Towns   |   Counties   |   Trips   |   Features   |   Columns   |   Architecture   |   Images   |   Archives   |   Site Map

TX Courthouses
Texas Courthouses
Wise County TX
Wise County

Texas Towns
A - Z
Decatur Hotels

More Hotels

Texas | Architecture | Courthouses

Wise County Courthouse

County seat - Decatur, Texas
Wise County



by Sam Fenstermacher

Book Hotel Here ›
Decatur Hotels
Wise County courthouse tower
Photo courtesy Sam Fenstermacher
County - Wise
County Seat - Decatur
County Population (2000) 48,793


County Courthouse
Constructed 1897
Architect J. Riely Gordon
Designation National Register Listing - 1976
Texas Historic Landmark - 1963
Wise County courthouse chimney
Photo courtesy Sam Fenstermacher

Wise County History

The first known inhabitants of Wise County were probably Wichita Indians. When the Coronado expedition came through the area of present Decatur in 1540, there were several Indian villages between the Trinity and Red rivers. The history of white settlement in Wise County began with Sam Woody who moved to Deep Creek in 1854, and his original log cab remains as a historic site today in what is now Cooke County.

Wise County was officially established by The Texas Legislature on January 23, 1856 with land drawn mostly from Cooke County, and was named in honor of Henry A. Wise, a United States Congressman from Virginia who had supported the annexation of Texas. The location of the county seat of Wise County was selected by a county election and, although the town was originally named Taylorsville early town pioneer Colonel Absolam Bishop petitioned to change the town's name to Decatur after becoming disappointed with President Zachary Taylor. Decatur remains the seat of Wise County government to the present.
Decatur TX - Wise County Courthouse
Wise County Courthouse today
Photo courtesy Sam Fenstermacher , March, 2004
Decatur Texas - Wise County Courthouse 1940 old  photo
Wise County courthouse as it appeared in 1940
Photo courtesy TXDoT

The Courthouse

The present courthouse is the forth constructed in the county. The third courthouse was destroyed by fire on January 8, 1895. The burning of the third courthouse set off a controversy over the location of the county seat. An election was held in November of 1895 to see if the new courthouse should be constructed at a new location. Voters confirmed by a wide margin that Decatur was to remain the county seat.

Plans for a courthouse were accepted from several architects, but on May 10, 1895 the contract was awarded to San Antonio architect J. Riely Gordon who agreed to also superintend the project for a fee of 5% of construction cost. The contract for construction was awarded to J.A. White who had the lowest bid of $95,000. Construction was to begin before June 1, 1895. In January of 1897, the building was completed and received by the commissioners court for a cost of about $110,000.

The Wise County Courthouse is one of several designed by architect J. Riely Gordon in Texas in the last years of the nineteenth century. This courthouse is often compared to the Ellis County Courthouse in Waxahachie Texas. Like that building, the Wise County Courthouse is based on the cruciform plan and the Romanesque Revival architectural style which were both used with great success by J. Riely Gordon in Texas.
Wise County Courthouse stone columns
Decatur TX - Wise County Courthouse 1895
Photo courtesy Sam Fenstermacher , March, 2004
Materials used on the courthouse exterior include Texas granite in two colors and terra cotta used extensively in the friezes, turrets and dormers. Marble wainscots, stone flooring of contrasting color tiles, and oak doors and trim accent the interior. A winding cast iron staircase in the building's center provides access to the upper floors. Good natural ventilation and lighting are provided by a glass skylight.

The interior of the Wise County Courthouse was remodeled in 1960, but the exterior of the building still retains most of its original details. The building's exterior was sandblasted several years ago in an effort to clean it up and modern plate glass windows and entrance doors were installed. These minor changes while not in keeping with the history of the building do little to detract from this charming old courthouse and the surrounding town square. Anyone who's a fan of old Texas county courthouses or the architectural works of J. Riely Gordon should certainly consider a trip to come and see this grand old building.


Copyright 2004 Sam Fenstermacher
All rights reserved

Bibliography:
"WISE COUNTY."http://atlas.thc.state.tx.us/
The Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/view/WW/hcw14.html, 2004.
Texas Historical Commission, Texas Historic Sites Atlas., 2003.

More Information
Wise County on the Web - http://www.wisecounty.com/

Wise County Courthouse
Photo Gallery

Photos courtesy Mike Price
Decatur TX - Wise County courthouse
Wise County Courthouse
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark

Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Wise County courthouse roof top
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Wise County courthouse clock tower
Wise County Courthouse clock tower
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Wise County courthouse architectural details
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Wise County courthouse architectural details
Wise County Courthouse architectural details
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Wise County courthouse architectural details
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Wise County courthouse  arch
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Wise County courthouse corinthian olumn
Courthouse corinthian olumn
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Wise County Chisholm Trail plaque
Going Up the Texas Chisholm Trail
1867

Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Wise County courthouse
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Wise County courthouse architectural details
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur TX - Wise County courthouse clock tower
Another view of the clock tower
Photo courtesy Mike Price, December 2007
Decatur, TX main street
Decatur main street & Courthouse Square
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
See
Decatur, Texas

Wise County
Wise County Jail

More Texas Courthouses

Related Topics:
Texas
Texas Town List
Texas Counties
Texas Architecture
Texas Images

Book Hotel Here:
Decatur Hotels
More Hotels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Texas Escapes Online Magazine »   Archive Issues » Home »
TEXAS TOWNS & COUNTIES TEXAS LANDMARKS & IMAGES TEXAS HISTORY & CULTURE TEXAS OUTDOORS MORE
Texas Counties
Texas Towns A-Z
Texas Ghost Towns

TEXAS REGIONS:
Central Texas North
Central Texas South
Texas Gulf Coast
Texas Panhandle
Texas Hill Country
East Texas
South Texas
West Texas

Courthouses
Jails
Churches
Schoolhouses
Bridges
Theaters
Depots
Rooms with a Past
Monuments
Statues

Gas Stations
Post Offices
Museums
Water Towers
Grain Elevators
Cotton Gins
Lodges
Stores
Banks

Vintage Photos
Historic Trees
Cemeteries
Old Neon
Ghost Signs
Signs
Murals
Gargoyles
Pitted Dates
Cornerstones
Then & Now

Columns: History/Opinion
Texas History
Small Town Sagas
Black History
WWII
Texas Centennial
Ghosts
People
Animals
Food
Music
Art

Books
Cotton
Texas Railroads

Texas Trips
Texas Drives
Texas State Parks
Texas Rivers
Texas Lakes
Texas Forts
Texas Trails
Texas Maps
USA
MEXICO
HOTELS

Site Map
About Us
Privacy Statement
Disclaimer
Contributors
Staff
Contact Us

 
Website Content Copyright Texas Escapes LLC. All Rights Reserved