Texas has some of the most imposing courthouses, and overall, have done a nice job of protecting them thanks to the Texas Historical Commission’s “nationally recognized and award-winning Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program.” Thus far, 67 full restorations have been funded. Palo Pinto’s courthouse is one of the 102 eligible courthouses to participate in the program. Another 74 have approved or pending approval plans and/or have received planning or emergency funding.
Architects Preston M. Geren, Sr. and M. A. Howell designed the “Texas Renaissance” courthouse, partially constructed with or clad with some sandstone from the 1882 courthouse, quarried south of the town. Although a number of courthouses in Texas indicate Texas Renaissance style, it has been hard to pin down exactly what is meant by that term. It more aptly describes a period of renaissance in Texas than a unique style, as the courthouses built during that time period contained elements of Classical Revival and Renaissance Revival. Kelsey and Dyal offer this description:
Robinson refers to it as Texas Renaissance, and it occurred from 1900 until the WPA constructions of the Great Depression…These buildings reflected new styles such as Beaux-Arts, Renaissance and Classical Revival, and Mission Style. In a display of pride, the county name and the Texas star often are prominently displayed on these buildings, and a heroic statement may be engraved on the frieze or over the entrance. Domes, pediments with columns, colonnades, and red brick walls with white stone moldings are characteristic features. (Kelsey, Sr., M. P., & Dyal, D. H. (1993). The Courthouses of Texas. Texas A&M University Press)
Palo Pinto (“painted stick”) was originally named Golconda. The name was changed in 1859, some 3 years after the town was established amidst the multi-colored hills and rocks along the Brazos that form Palo Pinto County.
In March 1940, 50 men employed by the Work Projects Administration razed the 58-year old courthouse constructed in 1882, removing the cupola and roof, and using cranes to lower the sandstone blocks for reuse. Some of the stones weighed over 1,000 pounds according to the Stephenville Empire-Tribune (March 22, 1940, second section, p. 1). These stones had been quarried from the nearby hills, and along with new stone from the same area, would be utilized in construction of the new courthouse. Ralph Carroll was the WPA construction engineer for the project (“Plans speeded toward start of projects here.” Wichita Daily Times, February 16, 1941, p. 1).
Completed in 1942, the building was constructed of reinforced concrete, and “featured subtle classical detail and was clad with some of the sandstone from the old building” (Texas Historical Commission marker, 1986). The cost of the new courthouse was $250,000.