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Dallas County Criminal Courts Building

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1915, H. A. Overbeck. 501 Main St.

As county needs outgrew Old Red (DS1), this building was designed to include two large district courtrooms and a jail on the fifth floor, with a tunnel connecting to the old courthouse. After surveying similar facilities nationwide, the county built a progressive facility, designed to look like an office building rather than the typical crenellated fortress image, an eight-story “skyscraper type in the Italian Renaissance style,” according to the Texas Trade Review of March 1, 1915. The five hundred inmates were served by a hospital and operating room, a barbershop, and a gymnasium, with up-to-date systems including forced air for temperature control, electric lights, sanitary plumbing, telephones, and electric elevators. Jailers’ quarters were also on-site. Clyde Barrow and Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd spent time here, and Jack Ruby was tried here in 1964 for the murder of President John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. The building has been used for storage since the 1990s.

Dallas architect Harry A. Overbeck (1861–1942), with an Ohio Architectural and Mechanical Institute education and experience in Omaha, arrived in Dallas in about 1897 and was soon receiving important commissions.

Additional courthouse expansion was provided by the Dallas County Records Building (1928, Lang and Witchell), a six-story limestone scheme at 509 Main Street. Although the style is nominally Gothic Revival, the taut massing and complementary vertical and horizontal features reflect the influence of the Chicago School. In the first decades of the twentieth century, the firm of Otto Lang (1864–1947) and Frank Witchell (1879–1958) was one of the most prominent architectural practices in Dallas and across North Texas, responsible for residential, commercial, and civic projects.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.


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Gerald Moorhead et al., "Dallas County Criminal Courts Building", [Dallas, 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, 142-143.

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