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DENTON COUNTY COURTHOUSE

Text and photos by Sam Fenstermacher
County - Denton
County Seat - Denton
County Population (2000) 432,976

County Courthouse
Constructed - 1896
Architect - W. C. Dodson
Designation National Register Listing - 1977
Texas Historic Landmark - 1970

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Denton County Courthouse, Texas 2005
Photo courtesy Sam Fenstermacher

Denton County History

Denton County was established by the Texas Legislature on April 11, 1846. Prior to this time only a few early settlers had lived in what is now Denton County. After Texas joined the union, military protection form marauding Indians caused settlement of this territory to increase.

Land for Denton County was carved out of Fannin County. Pioneers named the new county after John B. Denton, a pioneer preacher and lawyer who was killed in an Indian fight in 1841.

Due to hardships, the county seat was moved several times in the 1850's. The present day county seat was established and lots sold at auction in 1857. Primary among the reasons for this final move was the need to locate the county seat central to settlements in
Pilot Point in the north and Lewisville in the south.

City of Denton, Texas

Denton is a town rich with history. The town has been a center for education since the nineteenth century. The Texas Woman's University, and the University of North Texas both have deep roots in Denton.

With the University of North Texas campus and residential neighborhoods located near the town's center, there's plenty of pedestrian traffic on and around the town square.
Denton County Courthouse  1920s postcard
Denton County Courthouse in the 1920s
More vintage courthouse images
Postcard courtesy rootsweb.com/
~txgenweb// postcards/Index.html

The Denton County Historical Commission

The commission actively seeks to preserve, protect, and promote the history and heritage of the community. The commission operates the Courthouse-on-the-Square Museum. The museum is housed inside the historic county courthouse, and it's definitely worth stopping in to see. The commission is very active and has other attractions and events. Use the Denton county government's web site later in this document to read more about them.
Denton County Courthouse, Texas 2005
Photo courtesy Sam Fenstermacher
   
Denton County Courthouse
Plans for a Romanesque style courthouse were solicited from prominent San Antonio architect J. Riely Gordon. For reasons unknown today, Gordon's plans were rejected. The Denton County Courthouse was designed by architect W. C. Dodson.
Denton County Courthouse clock tower , Texas
Denton County Courthouse, Texas 2005
Photos courtesy Sam Fenstermacher
Dodson's design provided for a central corridor capable of supporting the weight of the masonry tower. The central octagonal tower and the four adjacent domes make this courthouse quite unique.
Denton County Courthouse Roman arch entrance
Denton County Courthouse octagonal clock tower, Texas
Photos courtesy Sam Fenstermacher
The Romanesque interpretation Dodson presented here shares elements of design from the best courthouses of the region, but it's still quite unique. The corner porticoes, a Roman arch at each entrance, masonry central tower, and excellent natural ventilation are all elements present in the great Romanesque courthouses of J. Riely Gordon. Facades divided into five bays with projecting pavilions and elaborate stone carving are evident in some of Dodson's own earlier designs, most notably Hill County. Polished pink Burnet granite columns supporting ornate pediments are reminiscent of the Tarrant County Courthouse .
Denton County Courthouse interior
Photo courtesy Sam Fenstermacher
   
The octagonal towers have no regional equivalent. The use of sandstone and granite in contrasting colors is quite unique. The richness of materials used for the interior is apparent. In so many ways the Denton county Courthouse is a magnificent and distinct landmark on the historic Denton town square.

More Information: The Denton County government website - http://dentoncounty.com/

Bibliographic note:
Most of the information presented here was extracted from the Texas Historical Commission's Sites Atlas. (http://atlas.thc.state.tx.us/) Other information came from the Denton county government web site.

Copyright 2005 by Sam Fenstermacher
All rights reserved
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