Van Zandt County Courthouse

Van Zandt County Courthouse front elevation 2

I love that I can now spot a New Deal courthouse as soon as I see it!  I was in dire need of a break from driving yesterday, albeit having hardly been on the road at all, and exited at the Canton, Texas stop and headed downtown.  I parked and walked the lovely little Square.

The Art Moderne courthouse constructed in 1936-1937 is the 6th courthouse for Van Zandt County.  The 5th was designed by architect James Riely Gordon, and was a Richardson Romanesque style constructed in 1896 and demolished in 1935.  Apparently since Van Zandt seemed to go through courthouses fairly quickly (six in 89 years), they had the foresight to begin a courthouse fund in 1886, when it dedicated a new courthouse.  In 1929, the discovery of oil in East Texas caused the fund to skyrocket, and it reached $125,000 in 1935 (“Free State of Van Zandt” now has new debt-free $210,000 courthouse building, 16 June 1937, Lubbock Morning Avalanche, p. 1).

J R Gordon eagle and cornerstone

Copper eagle and cornerstone from the 1896 courthouse by James Riely Gordon

Wichita Falls architects Voelcker & Dixon used similar Art Moderne details to their other Texas courthouses during this period in designing the brick with cast stone veneer courthouse.  Contractor was L. W. Wentzel.  The Public Works Administration (PWA) provided a grant of $86,000 (The Canton Herald, 22 November 1935, p. 1).  The new courthouse was formally opened June 15, 1937, and remains in use today, apparently largely unchanged, and has been standing for almost as long as the other five courthouses added together.

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8 Responses to Van Zandt County Courthouse

  1. bronsondorsey says:

    You may already kno this…J. Riley Gorden was the preeminent courthouse architect of the late 1880s in Texas. I’ll send you a photo of the Morris Ranch School he designed.

    • Suzassippi says:

      I knew he was a well-known architect from Preservation in Mississippi, but that is about all. I will look forward to the photograph of the school–thank you!

  2. Beth says:

    He’s well known in Texas, too! I did a Doorway Into the Past on his Lee County Courthouse and have one coming up on the Bexar and Comal County Courthouses. I drove through Waxahachie twice this weekend and forgot that one of his Courthouses is there, too. I didn’t verify this, but of the 18 Courthouses he designed in Texas 12 are still extant today.

    The Van Zandt is outstanding, Love the classic lines! The last time I was there the trees were so thick I couldn’t see the building’s details.

  3. Sheryl says:

    This and other recent posts that you’ve done make me really want to learn more about the things that were built as part of the New Deal. I have long been familiar with the CCC, and the work they did to create structures, roads, and trails in national and state parks; but I hadn’t realized how many other types of public buildings were built as part the New Deal.

    • Suzassippi says:

      Sheryl, that is great news! The New Deal, while certainly controversial to some extent (same old politics) touched every state, many many communities, and even US territories. Check out the Living New Deal site (livingnewdeal.org) which is a project of the University of California-Berkeley) for sites in your state/town. I will be posting more from my recent 4-state travels now that I am back in Mississippi.

  4. I love coming across blogs about my home town! =) thank you for posting.

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