After considerable turmoil, much of it occupying the early and mid-19th century including the Goliad massacre, the Cart Wars, and the Civil War, Goliad County citizens were grateful for a reprieve. By the 1880s a relative calm settled in, at least within the county seat of Goliad, where lawlessness extended to tying animals to the courthouse fence ($1 fine) and the unlawful ringing the courthouse square bell (only in case of fire). However, livestock access to the public square required further restrictions in 1891 when the construction of an iron fence, to include four “walk” gates and one “wagon” gate, definitively secured the courthouse grounds. In addition, all private parties having pipes leading to the public well on the courthouse grounds were ordered to remove them. In the Goliad County seat, access to the public commons didn’t include free water and cattle grazing.
Goliad’s next county controversy involved the building of a new courthouse. Not only did county citizens protest the cost but confusion arose as to which architect was ultimately responsible for the design of the Goliad County courthouse, a discrepancy resolved to a degree over a century later. Architect Alfred Giles identified the Goliad courthouse as a project from his firm. However, evidence points to architect Henri E. M. Guindon, a partner of Giles for a period in the late 19th century, as the courthouse’s designer. It appears that the drawing and lettering styles of the Goliad County drawings match that of Guindon. In addition, it would seem likely that if the Goliad commissioners were working with one of the most renowned architects of the period (Giles), they would have mentioned him in the Commissioners Court minutes but his name never appears in the record.
The new courthouse, however, made a significant impression. “The building is 105 feet by 75 feet and is to be three stories,” Goliad Guard editor N. M Vogelsang reported in his March 9, 1894 edition. “The body of the walls is of blue Muldoon sandstone with Pecos red sandstone and Belton White limestone trimmings…There are nine towers, one at each corner and one at each side and a center tower rising to a height of 120 feet at the top of the dome. The corner towers are supplied with dormer windows and there is a stairway to the top of each tower. The walls have a foundation six feet deep and six feet wide, laid in concrete and the building is fireproof throughout with steel eye beams, paneled ceilings, tiled floors and iron stairways, granite steps laid to the building from each of the four main entrances and long wide halls extended the entire length and width of the building from the entrances, affording perfect ventilation.”
Two additions to the new courthouse, neither attributed to Giles or Guindon, included an order for six dozen spittoons and a whipping post, erected in front of the courthouse door in 1901 to dispense nine lashes each to insubordinate convicts and administered on an “as needed” basis by the local sheriff. In addition, a livestock-proof fence continued to be necessary until a 1926 ordinance prohibited locals from allowing their cattle to wander freely.
In 1942, the first major modification to the Goliad County courthouse, courtesy of a major hurricane, removed the central tower. Deliberate alterations followed, including additions and remodeling over the course of most of the second half of the 20th century. A major restoration, with Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program assistance, was completed in 2003 and reversed all of the detrimental alterations that damaged the historical integrity of the building. The reconstruction and installation of the central tower, made hurricane-resistant, returned the courthouse to its original height of 125 feet. The reinstallation of the historic, livestock-proof iron fencing has been scheduled for a future date, however. In the interim, Goliad’s prohibition on free-roaming cattle remains in place.
Goliad County Courthouse
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