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Texas | Architecture | Courthouses

FAYETTE COUNTY COURTHOUSE
County Seat - La Grange, Texas
Fayette County

Fayette County has had four courthouses:
1838, 1847, 1857 and 1891

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Fayette County Courthouse Content:

History:
The Courthouses of Fayette County by Terry Jeanson
Fayette County Courthouse Historical Marker


Photo Gallery:
Fayette County Courthouse Today (Restored)
Fayette County Courthouse Historic Images
Fayette County Courthouse in 2002 (Before Restoration) next page
Fayette County Courthouse in 2004 (During Restoration) next page

The Present (1891) Fayette County Courthouse

La Grange, TX - Fayette County Courthouse
Fayette County Courthouse - La Grange, Texas
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark

Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, January, 2012

THE COURTHOUSES OF FAYETTE COUNTY

By Terry Jeanson

Fayette County was officially organized in 1838, named after American Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette. The town of
La Grange (meaning "the barn" in French) was platted in 1837 and became the county seat. The name was derived from Lafayette's chateau southeast of Paris, France.

The first courthouse that was established in 1838 was actually a store and saloon, formerly occupied by Ben F. Nabers(Nabors?) It was bought by James S. Lester and William M. Eastland for $250.00 and moved to the courthouse square. The small, wooden structure was 30' x 16' with five windows on the longer sides, double front doors and a gabled roof. Having no interior partitions, the district court had to be held in rented quarters and county offices were rented from businesses around the square. This courthouse was demolished for a second, more permanent building that was built in 1848 by contractor P. C. Beale. The original plans specified for a two-story, 30' x 40' brick structure with a stone foundation but, most likely due to the lack of funds, a wooden building was constructed instead. The courthouse's first floor contained a courtroom with a 13' ceiling and the second floor was divided into rooms for the clerks, the sheriff and the jurors. A cupola on the roof contained a bell that cost $100.00, $20.00 of which was donated by the citizens of
La Grange. When the second courthouse was replaced in 1857, it was sold to James Haynie for $1,180.00 and moved to a corner lot at Travis and Washington streets where it served many purposes until it's demolition in 1928, including a grocery store and a print shop for Judge A. Haidusek's newspaper, Svoboda. The bell from the cupola was sold to the Travis Street Methodist Church.

Fayette County's third courthouse was completed in 1857 at a cost of $14,500. It was designed by architect William Rosenberg (aka Carl Wilhelm von Rosenberg) and built by H. L. Kreische. Resembling the Greek Revival architectural style, it was a substantial, two-story, rectangular stone building with corner quoins, a simple cornice and short parapet. An iron balcony was perched over the front double-door entrance and a large, central, triple-tiered tower rose from the low hipped roof. The square base of the tower rose 10 to 15 feet with a cornice separating it from an octagonal middle section that had louvered windows with pilasters between them. On top was a small, gilded dome with a weather vane. The county paid $300.00 for a bell to be installed in the middle section of the tower and sometime later a clock was installed in the lower section with a clock face on the front fašade. The basement and first floor of the courthouse were used for county offices with the second floor designated for the courtroom. This courthouse served for over thirty years until the building was deemed unsafe and demolished in July of 1890 for the construction of a new courthouse.

The fourth and current Fayette County courthouse was built in 1891 at a cost of $99,407.04 and was designed by noted Texas courthouse architect James Riely Gordon with contractors Martin, Byrnes and Johnston (listed on the cornerstone as Martin Burns & Johnsen.) Of the twelve surviving Texas county courthouses designed by Gordon, the Fayette County courthouse is the oldest and is often compared to the much larger courthouse that Gordon designed for Victoria County. It was built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture that Gordon became known for and the exterior contains four different types of native Texas stone. The alternating use of Belton white limestone and Muldoon blue sandstone is most evident in the voussoirs over the entrances and windows and inside the pediments. Gordon also included Pecos red sandstone stringcourses and his trademark pink Burnet granite columns. Each side of the three story courthouse has five bays and central, arched entrances framed by extended pedimented pavilions with checkerboard patterns decorating the pediments. The wide, arched front entrance on the east side is the most ornate with grouped granite columns, balconies over the first and second floors and a clock tower with a pyramidal roof that rises one hundred feet from the ground. The arched entrances on the north and south sides have smaller balconies above them, crowned with stone pediments with stone carved gargoyles perched on top. The courthouse has many carved details in the spandrels, around the windows and pediments and also a large carved eagle at the base of the clock tower. One of the more notable features of this courthouse is the interior arrangement of the offices and courtroom around a 30' x 30' central courtyard.

Over the years, the interior of the courthouse had been remodeled to accommodate to growing needs of the county. In 1949, the central courtyard was eliminated to make space for a vault and more offices and existing offices were remodeled, enlarged and rearranged. In 2002, as part of the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, Fayette County received a construction grant for $3,999,989 towards a complete historical courthouse restoration. The central courtyard was reconstructed with the addition of a glass skylight and the historic interior paint colors were reproduced. All of the woodwork was refinished, the floor and the seating in the courtroom was recreated, a new elevator was installed and one of the three-story staircases was reconstructed. During the excavation of the basement, a cistern was found, which predated the 1891 courthouse. Some of the exterior restoration work included the reconstruction of the slate shingle roof, limestone chimneys, copper scroll and ornamental finials and the building's corner flagpoles. The restoration work began in June of 2003 and was completed in March of 2005 which was followed by a rededication ceremony that was held on June 25, 2005.

Terry Jeanson, July 12, 2015

Sources:
The Handbook of Texas Online;
The Texas Historical Commission at http://www.thc.state.tx.us/;
The Texas Historical Commission's County Atlas at http://atlas.thc.state.tx.us/shell-county.htm;
The Texas Historical Commission's County Atlas: Texas National Register Profile at http://atlas.thc.state.tx.us/shell-desig.htm; the Fayette County Texas website at http://www.co.fayette.tx.us/;
"The Temples of Justice of Fayette County" by Katie Kulhanek of the Fayette County Historical Commission at http://www.fayettecountyhistory.org/la_grange_footprints.htm;
VOH Architects at http://voharchitects.com; and The Courthouses of Texas by Mavis P.Kelsey Sr. and Donald H. Dyal, 2nd edition, 2007.

See Fayette County Courthouse Historical Marker
La Grange, TX - Fayette County Courthouse old photo
Fayette County Courthouse as it appeared in 1939
Photo courtesy TXDoT
La Grange, TX - Fayette County Courthouse
Fayette County Courthouse today
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, April 2009
TX - Fayette County Courthouse front entrance
Fayette County Courthouse front entrance
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, April 2007
TX - Fayette County Courthouse architectural details
Courthouse architectural details
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, April, 2009
TX - Fayette County Courthouse architectural details
Courthouse front entrance detail
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, April, 2009
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse architectural details
Courthouse front entrance detail
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, April, 2009
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse architectural details
Courthouse front entrance detail
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, April, 2009
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse gargoyle
Courthouse gargoyle
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, April, 2009
More Texas Gargoyles
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse
Courthouse north side
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, August, 2011.
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse front entrance
Courthouse south entrance detail
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, April, 2009
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse atrium
Courthouse atrium
Photo courtesy Carolyn Heinsohn, June 2014
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse atrium
Courthouse atrium
Photo courtesy Carolyn Heinsohn, June 2014
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse atrium
Fountain
Photo courtesy Carolyn Heinsohn, June 2014
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse atrium old photo
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse atrium
Marie and Angela Fisher
Atrium and fountain, circa 1922-early 1923

From the "Fayette County Record" May 31, 2011 - Submitted by Carolyn Heinsohn
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse atrium
Atrium
Photo courtesy Carolyn Heinsohn, June 2014
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse district courtroom
District Courtroom
Photo courtesy Carolyn Heinsohn, June 2014
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse district courtroom
District Courtroom
Photo courtesy Carolyn Heinsohn, June 2014
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse district courtroom
District Courtroom
Photo courtesy Carolyn Heinsohn, June 2014
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse district courtroom
District Courtroom
Photo courtesy Carolyn Heinsohn, June 2014
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse district courtroom
District courtroom
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, April, 2009
Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette
Bust of Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette (1757 - 1834),
the namesake of Fayette County.
La Fayette's French estate was named La Grange.
The bust was made by Pat Johnson, a ceramicist from Fayetteville

Photo courtesy Carolyn Heinsohn, June 2014
La Grange TX - Fayette County Courthouse cornerstone
Fayette Courty courthouse cornerstone
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, February, 2005
More Texas Cornerstones
Fayette County Courthouse historical marker.
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, July 2005
Historical Marker:
Fayette County Courthouse
About 1890, the structural safety of Fayette County's third courthouse came into question, and plans began for the building of this structure to serve as the seat of justice for the county. The commissioners court hired San Antonio architect James Riely Gordon (1863-1937) to design the new courthouse and oversee the construction. Gordon, who was 27 years old at the time, went on to become a noted architect of public buildings in Texas.

Funding for the 1890-91 courthouse came from the sale of $90,000 in bonds. Martin, Byrnes and Johnston of Colorado City served as building contractors. Gordon designed the courthouse in the Romanesque Revival style and specified four types of native Texas stone to detail the exterior: Blue Muldoon sandstone, Belton White limestone, Pecos Red sandstone and Pink Burnet granite. A central open atrium, designed to promote good lighting and natural ventilation, highlighted the interior space. The extensive use of stone, along with the massive arched windows and doorways, exemplify the building's Romanesque Revival influences.

The oldest existing J. Riely Gordon courthouse in Texas, the Fayette County courthouse was completed in 1891. It has served as a setting for social events, celebrations, courtroom dramas and political oratory, and continues as a center of politics and government for the county.
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 2001
Fayette County Courthouse Historic Images
Photos Courtesy of the Fayette County Library and Archives
The courthouse has withstood floods, storms, movie-making* and the trial of a gang member of Barrow-Parker Inc. Here are a few of the images courtesy of the Fayette County Library and Archives.
TX - Fayette County Courthouse in snow, 1918
Fayette County Courthouse in snow
- January 1918
Courtesy Fayette County Library and Archives
TX - Fayette County Courthouse 1918
"War is Won" Celebration - November 11, 1918
Courtesy Fayette County Library and Archives
TX - Fayette County Courthouse, 1920s
Several changes are apparent in this photo c. 1920s
Courtesy Fayette County Library and Archives
TX - Fayette County Courthouse 1926 historic photo
Fayette County Courthouse, circa 1926
Courtesy Fayette County Library and Archives
TX - Fayette County Courthouse in  stone TX - Fayette County Courthouse tower
The courthouse etched in detail on the Veteran's Memorial on the courthouse grounds
The 1857 (Third ) Fayette County Courthouse
The third Fayette County Courthouse
The Third (1857) Fayette County Courthouse
Courtesy Fayette County Library and Archives
"Fayette County's third courthouse was completed in 1857 at a cost of $14,500. It was designed by architect William Rosenberg (aka Carl Wilhelm von Rosenberg) and built by H. L. Kreische. Resembling the Greek Revival architectural style, it was a substantial, two-story, rectangular stone building with corner quoins, a simple cornice and short parapet. An iron balcony was perched over the front double-door entrance and a large, central, triple-tiered tower rose from the low hipped roof. The square base of the tower rose 10 to 15 feet with a cornice separating it from an octagonal middle section that had louvered windows with pilasters between them. On top was a small, gilded dome with a weather vane. The county paid $300.00 for a bell to be installed in the middle section of the tower and sometime later a clock was installed in the lower section with a clock face on the front fašade. The basement and first floor of the courthouse were used for county offices with the second floor designated for the courtroom. This courthouse served for over thirty years until the building was deemed unsafe and demolished in July of 1890 for the construction of a new courthouse." - From The Courthouses of Fayette County by Terry Jeanson
See
Fayette County Courthouse Before Restoration
Corinthian column, bell tower, clock, clockworks, weathervane
, obelisk, architectural details, stonework, marble floor, gargoyles...
Fayette County Courthouse clock clockwork
See
La Grange, Texas
Fayette County
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Texas Courthouses

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