J. Riely Gordon’s 1895-1897 courthouse in Decatur replaced one that burned in 1895. Fire had also consumed the 1881 courthouse and it burned to the ground destroying all records. Both fires were thought to be arson. Of the 1881 fire, the newspapers reported:
The firing of the court-house was of incendiary origin. There is no insurance on anything. Individually the losses on furniture, books, etc., will amount to considerable. The question of a new court-house has been warmly discussed of late, and it is supposed this means was adopted to decide the matter. (The Dallas Daily Herald, Nov. 29, 1881, p. 1)
Rosalie Gregg, writing for the Wise County Historical Society, reported the courthouse cost $110,000. The stone was pre-cut, numbered, and shipped from Burnet County Texas. The exterior is pink granite and the interior is Vermont marble.
The clock was purchased from E. Howard and Company. John A. White was the contractor.
James Riely Gordon designed 18 Texas courthouses, 12 of which remain (254 Texas Courthouses). His Angelina County Courthouse in Lufkin, Aransas County Courthouse in Rockport, Brazoria County Courthouse in Brazoria, Callahan County Courthouse in Baird, San Patricio County Courthouse in Sinton, and Van Zandt County Courthouse in Canton have all been demolished. Gordon’s work is most known for his Richardsonian Romanesque courthouses.