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Cass County has Texas' oldest continuously used courthouse

Cass County has Texas' oldest continuously used courthouse

December 10th, 2018 by Gazette Staff in Texarkana News

Cass County Courthouse been in use since 1861. It is the only existing Antebellum courthouse in Texas.

Photo by Hunt Mercier /Texarkana Gazette.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the sixth installment in the Courthouse Challenge series. From now until Dec. 20 you can vote on the best looking courthouse in the region online at texarkanagazette.com. This Challenge is not paywall protected. Subscribers and non-subscribers can go to the polling page and vote.)

Cass County Courthouse is Texas' sole-surviving antebellum courthouse and the state's oldest courthouse in continuous usage, according to local and statewide accounts.

It has weathered a lot natural and man-made forces in its time, including fires, tornadoes, additions and a recent restoration.

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ituated at 100 W. Houston St., in Linden, Texas, the Classical Revival courthouse was designed by Judge Charles Ames in 1859 and was constructed of local brick made by J. Thomas Veal and L. W. Lisenbee, who were also the builders, according to 254courthouses.net

The original 1861 brick structure is the central portion of the entire building, according to information from the Cass County Historical Commission.

A line beyond the first two sets of windows beside the front entrance shows where the first addition was made, and time and change have not been strangers since.

The courthouse was modeled after one not far away, the Little Virginia in Marshall, Texas, according to the county's historical commission.

The construction of the original portion was based on a model from the East Coast down through the colonies that became the States. The classical red brick architecture apparently traveled with the folks who came into East Texas to settle in this area, according to county historical commission information.

The courthouse survived fire, tornadoes and the general ravages of time to stand in downtown Linden as an architectural treasure.

In 1908 there was a tornado that came through and took off the top of the building. There's a picture of nothing standing (around the courthouse)—just like toothpicks all around with the building standing, This courthouse was known as the safest place in Cass County after that tornado, according to local historians.

n 1933, "a fire destroyed part of the second floor. The damage was repaired immediately; the tin covered cupola was removed, and the third floor was added. Sometime after the fire, stucco was applied over the brick and was painted white with deep tan trim. In 1979, a fourth addition of offices and an elevator were constructed on the west side of the courthouse," according to 254courthouses.net.

In the mid-to-late 2000s, the county applied for a $4.35 million grant from the Texas Historical Commission and private donations helped fund the restoration, which cost a total of $5.1 million. The 15 percent matching funds came from individuals and organizations, according to local residents.

The restoration date was 1934 "due to dramatic structural alterations to the roof (and) the introduction of pigmented stucco to the exterior," according to Texas Historical Commission records. "The project involved removing a 1980s addition and restoring all 1934 exterior and interior public spaces and replication of original light fixtures and globes, as well as updating mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and improving accessibility to meet ADA."

The dedication ceremony was held in February 2012 with Don Henley and William Hines, both Linden natives and major contributors to the restoration project. Henley is famous for his music career with The Eagles and as a solo artist, while Hines made his wealth in the oil business and and the petrochemical industry.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The Texarkana Gazette and texarkanagazette.com will present one courthouse a day (14 in all) until Dec. 18. At our website you can vote on the best looking courthouse. You can also find links to the polling site from our Facebook page, and some of you may find links through Breaking News or Updates we send out through email. The system that manages the Challenge will accept one vote per computer or mobile device. The top three vote-getters, in reverse order, will be featured in articles from Dec. 28 to Dec. 30. A week before this announcement three other courthouses will be featured, notable buildings that are either outside this region, or are no longer active county seats. These are not part of the Courthouse Challenge, but we think you will find them interesting. All the courthouses in the Challenge can be seen at the online polling site.)