Texas Travel

Chet Garner’s Favorite Texas Courthouses

By Chet Garner 6.8.22

Something strange I’ve learned during my trips around Texas is how wide the variety of courthouses is between counties. Some are architecturally stunning, others have intricate histories, and some are just plain strange. This is just the surface, but here are my five favorite Texas courthouses and why I love ’em.

Caldwell Texas courthouses

1. Caldwell County Courthouse, Lockhart

You might know Lockhart as the Barbecue Capital of Texas, but it’s also home to the Caldwell County Courthouse, a historic landmark and one of the most unique buildings in the state. There are three stories of white limestone and red Pecos sandstone, all dressed in Napoleonic style — it looks like something straight out of a European history book. It’s smack-dab in the center of town, so swing by for a tour if you have time while you’re hopping between barbecue joints.

Ellis Texas courthouses

2. Ellis County Courthouse, Waxahachie

The 19th-century architecture in Waxahachie is so quaint and ornate that the town’s nickname is “The Gingerbread City.” The Ellis County Courthouse is no exception to the charm and elegance — except for the faces that decorate its exterior. According to local lore, the stonemason who designed the Texas courthouse had fallen in love with a Waxahachie girl who was so beautiful that he etched her angelic face as he worked on the structure. But during its construction, unrequited love took the design in a different direction. Brokenhearted and angry, the stonemason began depicting her face demonically. So, while the “Gingerbread” courthouse looks sweet, there’s a sour history to it.

Grimes Texas courthouses

3. Grimes County Courthouse, Anderson

Do you like the story of the “Three Little Pigs”? Here’s the Texas version. The Grimes County Courthouse was built in the early 19th century out of logs, then burned to the ground in 1838. They repaired it, but a big, bad windstorm destroyed it again in 1850. So, on the third try, they used stone instead of wood — but it still burned down two more times in 1890 and 1893! The fifth time seemed to be the charm: It was made of bricks in 1894 and has avoided huffing, puffing, and fires ever since.

Marfa Texas courthouses

4. Presidio County Courthouses, Marfa

Marfa is all about sights, and not just mysterious ones. If you want an awesome view of town, check out the Presidio County Courthouse. You can take an old staircase up to the center cupola where you can see for miles. But the courthouse itself is worth looking at, too — the exterior walls are beautiful, peachy pink stucco and the cupolas are royal blue. It’s really pleasant to look at.

Scurry Texas courthouses

5. Scurry County Courthouse, Snyder

The Scurry County Courthouse might not be the most aesthetically attractive Texas courthouse (it’s basically just a windowless cube), but it’s still one of my favorites because it’s one of our country’s best examples of Brutalism architecture. Brutalism is as rough as it sounds: hard architectural lines, blocky designs, and minimalist decorations. So, when Scurry County needed to update their existing courthouse in the 1970s, they took a brutalist approach since it was the cheapest option. But they didn’t have enough money to even tear the old courthouse down — so they just wrapped the whole darn thing in granite, windows and all! Now it looks like a mausoleum on the outside, but the inside is less brutal.

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