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Architecture | Courthouses

The Fabulous Ruffini Brothers

Frederick Ernst Ruffini
and Brother Oscar

by Johnny Stucco
Paint Rock Texas -  Concho County courthouse
The 1886 Concho County Courthouse in Paint Rock
Architect - F.E. and Oscar Ruffini
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark

Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, 2008
When looking at Texas Architecture, the name Ruffini is found incribed on more than a few cornerstones around the state. Together these two designed many of Texas' notable 19th Century buildings. If you see a mansard roof on a surviving courthouse or jail, the chances are good that it was touched by a Ruffini. The boys were born to Ernst Frederick Ruffini and Adelaide Riehme, a couple who had immigrated from Europe in 1848. After a brief stay in Chicago, they then moved to Cleveland where F.E. was born in 1851 and Oscar in 1858. As soon as the boys had acquired a basic education, they were apprenticed to local Ohian architects.
First (1890) Mills County courthouse, Goldthwaite, Texas
The 1890 Mills County Courthouse
Burned May 5, 1912.

1908 photo courtesy texasoldphotos.com

Contents:

  • Frederick Ernst Ruffini & Notable Buildings
  • Oscar Ruffini & Notable Buildings
  • Texas cities that have been touched by them

  • Frederick Ernst Ruffini
    1851 - 1885

    After leaving Ohio, F. E. worked in Indianapolis, New York, Boston, and Chicago before finally arriving in Austin in 1877. He entered into a two-year partnership with Jasper N. Preston. A fruit of this partnership was the Bastrop County Courthouse - a building that's still standing, albeit without its clock tower. After his split with Preston, Frederick started designing his own courthouses, jails, and commercial buildings. (An incomplete list of buildings follows.)

    Some of these buildings include: the former Blanco County Courthouse (recently restored) in Blanco, the restored Collin County "Prison" in downtown McKinney and the former Millett Opera House in Austin. His best known works in Austin included the Hancock Building and the Old Main Building at the University of Texas - both now gone. The Hancock Building, where Ruffini once had his office, burned in 1883, was was restored, changed into an opera house and finally demolished.

    Ruffini's wife died in October of 1885 when the UT building was still under construction. Frederick died the following month - leaving behind three children.
    F. E. Ruffini House in Austin, TX
    The F. E. Ruffini House in Austin
    Photo courtesy Texas State Library & Archives
    Rockdale City Hall Front (South) Elevation by Architect F. E.  Ruffini
    Rockdale City Hall Front (South) Elevation
    Architect - F. E. Ruffini
    Courtesy Texas State Library & Archives
    Cornerstone of the 1882 Hays County Courthouse by architect Ruffini
    Hays County Courthouse 1882 cornerstone
    F.E. Ruffini, Architect

    Photo by John Troesser, 9-01
    Notable Buildings - Standing
    Former Blanco County courthouse, Blanco Texas, Ruffini 1885
    The 1885 former Blanco County Courthouse in Blanco
    Architect - F. E. Ruffini

    Photo courtesy Texas State Library and Archives
    1877 Williamson County Courthouse,  Georgetown Texas
    The 1877 Williamson County Courthouse in Georgetown
    Architect - Frederick E. Ruffini and Jasper N. Presto

    Early 1900s photo courtesy texasoldphotos.com
    Notable Buildings - Gone
    The 1882 Hays County Courthouse by architect Ruffini , San Marcos, Texas postcard
    The 1882 Hays County Courthouse in San Marcos
    Architect - F.E. Ruffini
    Burned in 1908

    1900 post card courtesy THC
    Former Navarro County  courthouse, Corsicana Texas
    The 1880 Navarro County Courthouse
    Architect - F. E. Ruffini
    Demolished in 1905

    Photo courtesy THC
    Rusk County Courthouse cornerstone, Henderson Texas
    Henderson, Texas
    F. E. Ruffini 1878 Rusk CountyCourthouse Cornerstone
    Darling & Redwine Contractors

    TE photo, 5-03
    1877 Williamson County Courthouse,  Georgetown Texas
    The 1877 Williamson County Courthouse
    Architect: F. E. Ruffini and Jasper N. Preston
    Demolished in 1910
    Early 1900s photo courtesy texasoldphotos.com
    Quitman, Texas - 1883 Wood county courthouse
    The 1883 Wood County Courthouse in Quitman
    Architect - F.E. Ruffini

    Photo circa 1909 courtesy THC

    Oscar Ruffini
    1858 -1957

    Oscar, after his apprenticeship, worked in Ohio from 1875 and also came to Austin in 1877 to work for Frederick as a draftsman. From 1878 to 1880 he went abroad; returning to Austin in 1883. He then spent a few months working for Elijah E. Myers, the architect who would soon design the Texas State Capitol. After that short stint, Oscar returned to work in his brother's office. He helped supervise completion of the UT administration building after his brother's death.

    In 1884 Oscar's doctor suggested that he move to San Angelo for his health. The advice was sound, for he led an unusually long and productive life in Tom Green County. His first project was supervising construction of the Tom Green County courthouse. The city benefited greatly from having such a talented resident and many of his commercial and public buildings, residences, and churches are still standing. Oscar never married (which may also have been a factor in his longevity) and walked everywhere he went. He was still working well into his 90s and died in 1957 as one of San Angelo's most beloved citizens.
    TX - Crockett County Courthouse Cornerstone
    The 1902 Crockett County Courthouse cornerstone
    Oscar Ruffini, Architect

    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, December 2009
    Notable Buildings - Standing
    TX Crockett County Courthouse
    The 1902 Crockett County Courthouse in Ozona
    Architect - Oscar Ruffini
    Recorded Texas Historic Landmark

    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, October 2011
    Sutton County Courthouse, Sonora, Texas
    The Sutton County Courthouse in Sonora
    Architect - Oscar Ruffini

    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, April 2002

    Texas cities that have been touched by one Ruffini or the other:

    A partial list:
    ( *denotes buildings that have been razed)

  • Austin - Administrative Building U of Texas*
  • Austin - Millett Opera House
  • Austin - Hancock Building c.1880*
  • Austin - Temporary Texas State Capitol 1883*
  • Bastrop - 1883 Bastrop County Courthouse
  • Belle Plain - 1883* Callahan County CH
  • Belle Plain - Belle Plain College, 1881-1888*
  • Blanco - former Blanco County Courthouse c.1885
  • Coleman, - the R.S. Bowan House (circa 1880)
  • Corsicana - 1880* Navarro County Courthouse
  • Franklin - the 1882 Robertson County Courthouse
  • Franklin - the 1882 Robertson County Jail
  • Georgetown - The 1877* Williamson County Courthouse
  • Goldthwaite - the 1890* Mills County Courthouse
  • Henderson - 1878/79* Rusk County Courthouse
  • Longview - the 1879* Gregg County Courthouse
  • McKinney - 1880 Collin County Prison
  • New Braunfels - 1878* Comal County Jail
  • Ozona - the 1902 Crockett County Courthouse and the Ozona High School
  • San Angelo - 1884* Tom Green County Jail (plus 40 others)
  • Paint Rock - the 1886 Concho County Courthouse
  • Quitman - 1883* Wood County Courthouse
  • San Marcos - the 1882* Hays County Courthouse (Burned down in 1908) )
  • Sonora - the 1891 Sutton County Courthouse
  • Sterling City - 1891* Sterling County CH

  • January 1, 2018
    John Troesser


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