The Fayette County Courthouse is located in La Grange, Texas.
Pictures of the Renovated Courthouse
In November 1889, the Fayette County Grand Jury issued a report of the bad condition of the third courthouse. They reported on the lack of space and the conditions which jurors and witnesses endured. The Grand Jury recommended that the Commissioners' Court take steps to provide a suitable, safe, and convenient courthouse for Fayette County.
The first hall of justice in Fayette County was a house\grocery store which was purchased for $250.00 and moved to the public square. It served its purpose from 1838(the year the county was organized) until 1848 when the second courthouse was built. This wooden structure was two stories tall and sported a bell. The third courthouse was built in 1855. H.L. Kreiche built the two-story stone structure at a cost of $14,500.00. It stood until the county erected the fourth and final courthouse in 1890.
On March 20, 1890 a committee of three architects investigated the condition of the courthouse and reported to the Commissioners' Court that the building was unsafe, that it would be an unwarranted outlay of money to attempt to repair it, and they recommended it be torn down and another be built in its place. The Commissioners' Court unanimously voted to build a new courthouse as soon as possible. The cost was not to be less than $65,000.00 and no more than $90,000.00. J.R. Gordon, an architect from San Antonio, was present at the meeting and offered to draw a rough sketch of the ground floor immediately. The Commissioners' Court agreed, after looking at the sketch, that Mr. Gordon should submit a more formal plan at their next meeting. At the next meeting Mr. Gordon's plan was accepted and it was agreed that he would be paid a 5% commission on the total cost of the courthouse for drawing plans and supervising the construction.
The firm of Martin, Byrnes and Johnston of Colorado City, Texas won the construction contract with a bid of $82,750.00. The building was to be completed in fourteen months. The firm was known for its construction of public buildings and they received many compliments during the building of the courthouse.
The building of the courthouse did not take place without controversy, however. The site that the courthouse was to be built on was in a flood plain and many raised questions on the location of the site. Some people wondered if the old courthouse was really in such poor condition and why the county needed to build such an expensive building when there were more pressing needs in the county. The local newspaper stated that the architect's fee was too high and Gordon had already been paid in part, but had failed to file his plans or bond. He was also not in residence to supervise the construction. The business methods of the County judge and Commissioners' Court were repeatedly brought under question. Many citizens believed it was also strange that no other architects were allowed to submit plans for the courthouse.
The old courthouse was condemned and ordered to be torn down in July of 1890. Demolition of the "unsafe" structure proved difficult and dynamite was required to finish the job.
In December of 1890 a large work force was employed at the Muldoon quarry to cut out the stone needed for the construction and to shape it for construction. Work commenced on the new courthouse in the first week of January of 1891 and progressed steadily. On April 9, 1891, in an impressive ceremony, the cornerstone was laid by the local Masonic lodge. A celebration with dining and dancing was held into the early hours of the next day. The festivities were attended by about 2,000 people. By the end of August bids were being received for furniture for the courthouse.
Court opened in the new building in November and it was formally accepted by the Commissioners' Court on December 1, 1891 at a total cost of $99,407.04. Funding for the construction was provided by the sale of ninety $1,000.00 bonds.
By the end of December of 1891, all county officials were in their new offices. The new Seth Thomas clock and the old 800 pound bell were in place and tolling the hours to the delight of the citizenry. In late February 1893, the courthouse was lit with electricity for the first time. By mid March 1892, the courthouse lawn was being landscaped.
The three story building is masonry and stone Romanesque Revival structure with a clock tower raising over the main entrance. All offices and the courtroom are arranged around a 30' by 30' square central courtyard. The structure is 88' by 109', the tower rises 100' from the ground. The exterior walls are built from blue sandstone form Muldoon, Texas, and trimmed with red Pecos sandstone, burnet granite, and Belton white limestone. In the tower front a bald eagle is carved on a five' by fourteen' slab of stone. On the corners of the tower and above the side entrances are dragons carved out of the eight ridge points. The courtroom is 85' by 42' and shaped like a half moon. The gallery has a seating capacity of 500. The roof is Spanish tile, made out of slate, and has copper valleys. Flag poles project from each of the four corners.
Various alterations have occurred over the years. The acorn shaped ridge ornaments were removed in 1925 after one of them fell off. The availability of steam heat in 1927 brought about the removal of the chimneys. The central courtyard was closed in to make space for a vault and more offices in 1949. The clock was converted to electricity in 1951. The flagpoles were removed. Offices have been remodeled, enlarged, and rearranged to meet expanding workloads and advancing technologies.
The building itself has been witness to vast environmental and societal changes in its 100 plus years. The 1913 flood covered the basement and first floor with five feet of water. It has witnessed the architectural change of the buildings surrounding it and has seen dirt streets and horse & buggies give way to cars. It has been festooned in red, white, and blue in celebration of the resolution of wars and during solemn memorial occasions. It continues to stand as the proud and time-honored symbol of Fayette County Justice.
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