By Liz Carmack, Sr. Communications Specialist
A popular architectural style chosen for Texas courthouses constructed from the 1890s through the 1950s, Classical Revival (also known as Neo-Classical) is rooted in the architecture of classical antiquity based on Roman and Greek forms and order. The primary characteristic of this style is a simple building that is orderly, balanced and restrained. The style features symmetrically aligned windows, doors and other design elements and Classical ornament motifs such as dentils (which resemble teeth with gaps), egg and dart ornaments, and plant-inspired designs. Buildings constructed in this style also often emphasize a full height entry portico (a roof supported by columns), often topped with a pediment (or triangular piece) and filled with sculptural ornamentation.
Texas courthouses designed in this style include Briscoe, Hockley and Tom Green, all featured here. Dozens of county seats across the state are home to Classical Revival courthouses, including in Armstrong, Blanco, Brooks, Limestone, Lynn, Mason, Roberts, Wilbarger and Wood counties.
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of photo essays highlighting architectural styles of Texas county courthouses. Photos are by Laura Skelding and story by Liz Carmack. Thanks to the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation program for its assistance with this series.
Briscoe County Courthouse, 1922 – Silverton (above)
Amarillo architectural firm Smith & Townes designed the brick and concrete Briscoe County Courthouse. When it opened in 1922 it included a beautiful, Classical entablature and cornice that wrapped around the top of the building and sat atop its
Classical full height entry portico. The building also originally included four-pane over two-pane, double-hung wood windows and wood entry doors and a transom. Although these features are now gone, its original, uniquely formed parapet wall still forms the top of the building, and the traditional dentils still form a band around the building defining the beginning of its second floor.
Hockley County Courthouse, 1928 – Levelland
The 1928 Hockley County Courthouse is a good example of Classical Revival architecture with its fluted ionic pilasters, highly symmetrical window and door placement and balustrade as pediment. A unique feature of the building is its heavy masonry joint articulation at its base, which grounds the building and references the work of architect Andrea Palladio, who first revisited Ancient Greek and Roman design in 16th century Italy.
The building was designed by Preston Lee Walker and built of algonite stone and concrete.
Tom Green County Courthouse, 1928 – San Angelo
An elegant colonnade extends across the wide, south façade of the 1928 Tom Green County Courthouse, dominating the building and its main entrance. The massive Corinthian columns support a full entablature and high parapet that continues around the three-story building. The colonnade terminates in end masses on the east and west ends of the courthouse, which are also the ends of the porch created by the recessed area behind the columns. A tier of broad steps leads up to three sets of brass doors at its entrance and a wide stone header runs below the building’s flat roofline.
Donald R. Goss designed the concrete, brick and cast stone building, which reportedly cost the county $294,000 to construct.