Lampasas County Courthouse
Lampasas County, named for the Lampasas River, encompasses 858 square miles and was created from from parts of Travis, Bell, and Coryell counties February 1, 1856, and organized March 10 with Burleson; thereafter known as Lampasas, as the county seat. The city of Lampasas was incorporated in 1874.
Before Lampasas County was created, John Burleson, an early settler, deeded land to his daughters, Elizabeth Scott and Martha Moore. Elizabeth laid out lots for a town and designated the site for the courthouse and public square.
Only two courthouses have served this county. The current building was completed in 1883. It cost a little more than $30,000. In 1936 it underwent its first renovation. It was remodeled again in 1986, and the last restoraton was finished in 2004.
Fire and Floods:
The Lampasas County Courthouse is the third oldest in the state still serving its original, intended purpose. This is a courthouse that has seen some hard times, as did its predecessors.
The first courthouse was a frame structure, which burned December 24, 1871. Those records not lost in the fire were destroyed by a flood soon after, on September 27, 1873. Both the destruction of the courthouse and county records occurred at an unfortunate time, for land developers sought to move into the county, and in 1875, Lampasas farmers were forced to form an alliance as a defense against encroachments.
From the time of the fire of 1871 to the construction of a new courthouse in 1883, each county official was forced to locate his office in the most convenient location possible. Thus, various county offices were scattered throughout the town.
By 1882, the necessity for a substantial courthouse had been fully realized, and County Commissioners A.J. Northington, Matthew Roach, N.F. Meeks, and H. Wallace hired W. C. Dodson as architect and contractor. Dodson chose native limestone as his building material, and excavation began in 1882. Much of the work was done by convicts who were in Lavaca County, helping to build the Santa Fe tracks west. Construction on the current courthouse was completed in 1884. Still, the courthouse saw its share of travails. The Sulphur and Burleson creeks overflowed in 1936, inundating part of the courthouse in the process.
In 1957, more than 12 inches of rain fell on Lampasas in a 24-hour period, again saturating part of the stately structure. Poorly engineered repairs of the damage resulting from these events eventually combined to seriously compromise the foundation and roof's integrity. The old courthouse was teetering on the brink.
A partially matching grant from the Texas Historical Commission and hard work by the local preservation committee and county historical commission brought the courthouse back to its former glory. It was officially rededicated in March of 2004, the culmination of an eight-year, $4 million restoration effort.
Dodson was an architect who specialized in county courthouses and he is known to have designed six courthouses. Of these six courthouses, four are remarkably similar. The massing of architectural forms in the Lampasas County Courthouse (completed in 1884) is closely related to that of Parker, Hill and Hood county courthouses. Architectural details such as doorways, tower clocks, window and roof treatments are offer adapted or identically re-used in all of these courthouses which were constructed in the 1880s and 1890s.
Dodson, a native Alabamian, was a Civil War veteran who was wounded at Rocky Race Ridge. He returned home from the war 'broken in health and cripple,' according to 'Confederate Military History.'
Though Dodson never completely re covered from his war wounds, his work as an architect seems to have soothed his creative spirit. The courthouses he designed are considered among the most aesthetically pleasing of Texas 254 courthouses and all of them have been included in the National Register of Historic Places.
All of Dodson's courthouses were built in a 15-year period, from 1883-98, often referred to as the 'Golden Age' of courthouse construction. W. C. Dodson, listed as a Waco architect in the 1885 roster of Texas architects.
Texas produced five great courthouse architects: W. C. Dodson, Alfred Giles, James Riely Gordon, Eugene Heiner, and F. E. Ruffini
COURTHOUSES DESIGNED BY WESLEY CLARK DODSON
The former (1886) Anderson Courthouse, Palestin -
(Dodson & Dudley) (The building fell to arson.)
The Lampasas County Courthouse is a Second Empire style, limestone structure designed by the architect, W. C. Dodson. The moderate-size building has an overall rectangular shape with identical five-bay compositions on the northwest and southeast facades and similar three-bay compositions on the northeast and southwest facades. The courthouse has a Mansard roof with a flat deck above the Mansard hip in the central section and double-hip Mansard roofs with Jerkin-head gables covering the end pavilions on the southeast and northwest facades and extending across the three-bay facade of the northeast and southwest facades. The lower hip of the roof has diamond-shaped tin shingles and a standing-seam tin covering on the double-hip portion of the roof.
The facades of the courthouse are treated as though the building were a two-story structure with both a high-ceiling first and second floor. On the interior, however, the upper level is actually divided again, forming a third floor. The upper windows on the courthouse facade actually light both the second and third floors. The floor of the third level is detailed on the exterior elevations as a wide horizontal band in the glazed area of the windows.
The courthouse, built of native limestone, has vermiculite ashlar walls with smooth-faced ashlar used in the quoins, belt course, jambs and window lintels and the entrance portico.
The northeast and southwest facades have a central projecting entrance pavilion which rises to the height of the hip-cornice which divides the double-hip roof. The pavilion has a gable roof with an elaborate cornice. The cornice, which is supported by console-brackets, has returns at the height of the roof plate and a cima reverse crown mold. The cornice which divides the double-hip roof repeats the cornice of the end pavilions.
The northeast and southwest elevations have double doors with a fanlight. The circular doorway opening has smooth faced voussoirs and a keystone, flanked by pairs of pilasters of an inventive design, related to no classical order. The entablature is divided into an architrave and frieze with crests and incised circles in the architrave. The entablature is surmounted by a cornice with a cavetto mold.
Above the first floor entrance on the southwest and northeast elevations are pairs of tall round-headed windows with a relieving arch joining the two windows into a large design of a single unit with a round, semi-circular arch. Triple windows flank the entrance pavilion on both floors. The central window in each of the four three-window compositions has a hood-like semi-circular lintel with keystone. The flanking windows have hood-like segmental arch lintels. All windows in the courthouse are casement type.
The entablature on the main block of the courthouse compliments that of the central pavilions and has a pair of brackets over the quoins; pairs of small brackets extend the width of the frieze, alternating with larger, single console brackets. There is a box cornice with a cima reverse crown mold, identical with that on the pavilion gables and the cornice between the two hips of the Mansard roof. Small decorated gables appear over each of the triple windows. The bell tower has a convex Mansard roof with a deck above. The Mansard roof tops a tower chamber with two louvered windows on each facade. The windows have pilaster capitals and gable- like pediments. There is a decorative entablature and a cornice at the base of the Mansard roof with a cornice forming the base of the deck. There is a Seth Thomas clock in the tower. The four clock faces have pedimented circular architraves and detached sills. The entire bell tower is covered with diamond pattern tin shingle such as are found on the surface of the lower hip- section of the Mansard roof.
The external appearance of the courthouse has remained substantially unchanged although the interior has been remodelled and air conditioned.
BIBLIOGRAPHY ON FILE IN THE NATIONAL REGISTER
"Lampasas County Courthouse" Waymark
Since its construction, the courthouse has been a focal point for city and county activities, including local festivals. Floods in 1936 and 1957 damaged the building, requiring repair and reconstruction. Today, the stately Lampasas County Courthouse remains an outstanding example of the golden era of courthouse construction in the state. It continues to serve as an important symbol of the county's growth and development and as an influence on the historic character of the county seat.
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1965