The 1885 Maverick County courthouse, designed by architecture partners James Wahrenberger and Albert Beckmann, represents a Romanesque Revival styling with Second Empire details and is one of the longest serving courthouses in the state. Although the county was created in 1856, the area’s isolation, sparse population, and the economic turmoil caused by the Civil War prevented its official organization until 1871. The county’s first courthouse, a simple wooden building completed in 1878, soon proved to be inadequate as conditions in the region improved and by 1884 the structure was condemned, requiring the county to launch a construction project for the new Romanesque courthouse.
Once completed, the Maverick County courthouse began serving citizens as a place for conducting county business as well as providing a central location for social functions. According to county commissioners court records, however, the courthouse was also utilized, unofficially, by “overnight guests”. The problem peaked in 1891 when the commissioners court ordered the sheriff to “remove anyone sleeping in the courthouse and not allow anyone to use the courthouse for sleeping apartments”, followed in 1899 with another order stating that “the courthouse be used only for the purpose for which it was built”. Sleep-overs eventually ceased, apparently, but the courthouse as social gathering place did not. Court records indicate in 1900 that the Eagle Pass Musical and Literary Society was granted permission to use the courthouse building “not more than once a week” as long as members turned off the lights and closed the doors and windows when done.
Modifications to the courthouse included the addition of a clock in the courthouse tower in 1916. The clock, with four plate-glass dials each four feet in diameter, was purchased from the E. Howard Clock Company of Boston and installed for a total cost to the county of $845.
Perhaps the most dramatic alteration to the courthouse occurred in 1926 when the exterior walls were covered in stucco, likely the result of the deterioration of the structure’s exposed brick.
This was also the year the Texas Historical Commission selected for the date of restoration once the first of four phases began for the historic courthouse’s return to its original state. Spanning a period of eight years and culminating with a rededication in 2005, the restoration process highlighted basic structural repairs as well as the discovery of its original, and unusual, decorative paint and surface treatments. The paint scheme, employing shades of ochre, green and blue, featured three different types of surface decoration: faux wood graining, graphic alternating colors, and stenciling.
The stenciling represented the most complex of the design elements used in the courthouse interior and employed medallions, floral patterns, trumpets, and Gideon’s knots. But perhaps the most interesting (and abundant) design technique used in the courthouse featured hand-painted faux wood graining, also known as “Faux Bois”, on the surface of much of the woodwork. Several techniques were used, including “straight graining”, a process designed to replicate the grain pattern achieved when a tree is divided lengthwise into quarters and each quarter cut into wedges and then each wedge milled into boards. The milling process, also known as quarter sawn, highlights a pattern of straight grain that exhibits similar variations in width and colors of the lines seen in a tree’s growth rings. Unusual patterning results from the intrusion of knots and curls in the growing wood, causing the straight grain lines to curl or twist. Straight graining, a popular finishing technique used to decorate interiors during the period, was often applied with a three-sided graining tool. The courthouse’s straight grainer used this tool as well, creating a “folksy quality” to the lines and expressing a whimsical style. Judging by the graining used in other parts of the courthouse, restoration experts believed the creative interpretation of the technique was a result of the experience and personal preference of the artist, a “maverick”, no doubt, of his profession.
Maverick County Courthouse
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