Since its completion in 1919, the Hudspeth County courthouse and grounds have served as site for a number of activities above and beyond the conducting of county business. Shortly after construction in 1922, one of the rooms provided a temporary medical facility for treating an injured victim of a railroad accident that occurred along the railroad line running just in front of the courthouse. Two years later the courthouse suffered earthquake damage, perhaps making it the only courthouse in Texas to have experienced earthquake-specific repairs. In 1927, the Hudspeth County Commissioners’ Court learned that the courthouse was being used by various officers as a rooming house, requiring a sweep of unauthorized residents, leaving only one deputy sheriff (acting as jailer) and a clerk as official live-ins. Over the years, community organizations like the local Boy Scouts, the Tennis Club, and the “Home Demonstration” agent were granted permission to use space in the courthouse for their meetings and training.
The Hudspeth County Courthouse, located in the county seat of Sierra Blanca, was a late starter for the typical courthouse construction of Texas. However, it’s also the only adobe courthouse in the state. Designed by architect Bradford Hardie of El Paso, the single story structure is composed of eighteen-inch thick adobe and stucco walls featuring adobe bricks made on the construction site.
Hardie arrived in nearby El Paso with his family at age 13 in 1906, graduating from El Paso High School before receiving his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University. His design for the Hudspeth County Courthouse used adobe as its basic building material, integrating classical details influenced by Hardie’s architecture education as well as the work of contemporary architects designing in El Paso during the early twentieth century, including Henry Trost. The style, considered “Spanish eclectic” is reminiscent of a Classical Revival design with Mediterranean influences, including both Italian and Spanish Colonial design elements. Its roof, originally composed of clay tiles, is actually metal tile sections resembling clay, a later alteration that has helped preserve the adobe work. The building, a “T” shaped layout, contains approximately fourteen thousand square feet of floor space and includes a small basement. The floor over the basement is made of wood and the rest is a concrete slab sitting directly on the earth. Decorative ornamentation is minimal although the side and central arcades and arched windows add a simple and clean aesthetic to the building and highlight the beauty of the vernacular construction material. The courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and awarded a State Archeological Landmark, has been restored with the help of the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, allowing it to continue to serve county residents into its second century.