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Wise County Courthouse

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1897, J. Riely Gordon. 101 Trinity St.

Inspired by H. H. Richardson’s Trinity Church (1877) in Boston, Gordon’s Wise County Courthouse and its slightly larger near-twin, the Ellis County Courthouse (1896; CW19), are the highpoint of nineteenth-century Texas county courthouse design. This courthouse exemplifies what became known as Gordon’s signature plan, which he used on seven courthouses. It consisted of a basic cross-axial plan of asymmetrical wings, with entrances in the corners rather than the ends of the wings, and the second-floor courtroom offset to allow for a central rotunda and stair. The tower rises above setback blocks, corner turrets, scroll-pedimented dormers, and red tile roofs. The corner entrances are deep loggias and work in concert with the tower to stimulate airflow through the building: the central rotunda draws cooler air into the building through the shaded loggias and expels it through the tower.

The Ellis courthouse was underway when the Wise County commissioners organized a competition and selected Gordon’s scheme over nine others, along with contractor J. A. White’s construction bid. Burnet (Texas) pink granite with a rock-faced finish, polished granite columns, and terra-cotta foliate friezes create monochrome solidity, in contrast to the variously colored masonry Gordon used at Ellis.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.


What's Nearby


Gerald Moorhead et al., "Wise County Courthouse", [Decatur, Texas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Texas

Buildings of Texas: East, North Central, Panhandle and South Plains, and West, Gerald Moorhead and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019, 241-242.

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