Historical Courthouse

McCulloch County Courthouse

Texas

Built in 1877 in Italianate influenced architectual style by contractor John McDonald.

McCulloch County was named in honor of Benjamin McCulloch, whose distinguished career included service as a Texas Ranger, United States marshal, and brigadier general in the Confederate Army. He participated in the Texas Revolution, and served with Sam Houston in the Battle of San Jacinto. In 1862, during the American Civil War, General McCulloch was killed in the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. McCulloch County was carved out of Bexar District by the Sixth Legislature in 1856. There were enough settlers to fill only a few county offices throughout the 1860s, but post-war westward emigration from the old Confederate states swelled the population of the Texas frontier. By 1876, all county positions had been filled. That same year, Henry and Nancy Fulcher and Thomas E. Smith donated 160 acres of land to McCulloch County and proposed they become the site of the new county seat. The county held an election and only nineteen votes were cast in favor of the site. However, in July, County Surveyor A.J. Storm surveyed the site and charted the town. The court instructed him to lay out two hundred foot square blocks, including the town square, and eighty foot wide streets (Barfoot, 37-38). Until a suitable courthouse could be built, the county rented a house from Mr. J. A. Brooke to use as temporary office space. In May 1877, the county accepted the only bid for the construction of the courthouse and jail. John McDonald, a builder from Austin, immediately began construction. The foundations were laid by mid-July, but by the time the four lower rooms of the courthouse were finished in January 1878, the plaster had already begun to crack (Barfoot, 39, 43-45.) John McDonald's sandstone courthouse was a vernacular building with Italianate influences, as seen in its heavy cornice and window treatment. A central octagonal cupola with eight medallions, each decorated by a painted star, perched above its two stories, and two chimneys topped the shallow-pitched hip roof on the north side. Four pediments delineated the entrances on each side. Accented keystones were placed above the entrances and five windows of each facade. The first floor arches were semi-circular, while those in the second floor were rounded. All the windows were double hung with exterior shutters. Only two years after its construction, the courthouse was plagued with expensive structural problems. Although the county had received money to solve the drainage problems in the square, by November it had become apparent that a repair fund was necessary. Iron rods capped with iron stars were necessary to reinforce the building and prevent its spreading. In 1883, a fence was built around the courthouse and two cisterns were added to the square; shade trees were planted in 1886, and in 1891, a fireproof vault was added (Barfoot 48-50). By the end of the decade, county officials decided the courthouse was beyond repair. On May 10, 1899, the court voted to demolish the courthouse and to build a new one on the site.

1899: Demolished for new courthouse

Current status: razed 1899