The discovery of unique decorative finishes and ornamental painting during the restoration of the Red River County courthouse, financed by a significant grant from the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, led the architecture team to reevaluate the selected restoration period. Completed in 1884 and designed in the Renaissance Revival style with Second Empire details, the Red River County courthouse underwent some major modifications in 1910 including an annex and a complete reconfiguration of its District Courtroom. Thus, at first, 1910 was the agreed upon date for restoration. The annex was added to provide necessary fireproof offices and vaults but the redesign of the courthouse, which relocated the judge’s bench and attendant layout, was inspired by more “pedestrian” circumstances. The original position of the bench along the east side of the building paralleled one of the busiest avenues in Clarkesville, Red River County seat, and the noise was so loud and persistent that it routinely disrupted courtroom proceedings. With the 1910 redesign, the bench was moved to the opposite wall and a large decorative arch constructed over it. This redesign entombed portions of the courtroom ceiling visible only from the attic.
Because both the courtroom redesign and the annex and their historic elements remained intact, the decision was made to return the courthouse to its 1910 iteration. However, after limited demolition during the initial phase of restoration, the original 1884 Victorian color palette for the interior as well as original gold-leafing and faux finishes were discovered. Because the designs were relatively unique to historic Texas courthouse interiors, the decision was made to restore the courthouse interior to its 1884 state and the exterior to the 1910 date. Most unusual in the discovery, a hand-painted sign was recovered over the arched opening above the original location of the judge’s bench commanding “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness” in gold-leaf and brightly colored hand-painting.
The 1884 courthouse was the fourth for Red River County, designed by Dallas architect W. H. Wilson and built just off the square as its size exceeded the limits of the original designated courthouse square lots. During a March 17, 1884 ceremony, the courthouse cornerstone was installed by the local Masonic fraternity. The white marble block features a low-relief carving of the face of the blindfolded Goddess of Justice. The three-story structure features bull’s eye windows and ochre-colored limestone quarried around the nearby community of Honey Grove. The edifice is complemented with a roof cupola featuring a clock with dials eight and a half feet in diameter and a bell weighing approximately two thousand pounds, all manufactured by the Howard Clock and Watch Company of Boston, Massachusetts.
During restoration, the exterior required considerable repairs to the deteriorating sandstone elements and the decorative tower was renovated and repainted its original colors. The cupola’s condition, however, was beyond restoration so architects reconstructed the entire structure. The original cupola remains on the courthouse square for a close-up view by visitors. Once the restoration was complete, the county celebrated a courthouse rededication on October 26, 2002.
Red River County Courthouse
Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.