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Texas | Architecture | Courthouses

SOMERVELL COUNTY COURTHOUSE
County Seat -
Glen Rose

Somervell County has had two courthouses: 1882 and 1893

by Sam Fenstermacher

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Glen Rose TX - Somervell County Courthouse
Somervell County Courthouse
Photo courtesy William Beauchamp, July 2009

The Present Somervell County Courthouse
Glen Rose

Constructed - 1894
Architect - John Cormack
Designation
National Register Listing - 1979
Texas Historic Landmark - 1963


Description

The Somervell County Courthouse is a simple two story structure featuring elements of Romanesque Revival and General Grant architectural styles. Intersecting hallways on the first floor divide the first floor space into four sections. The second floor features a courtroom and some office space. The building is modest in size, oblong in shape, and approximately 60 feet wide and 40 feet deep.

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Glen Rose TX - Somervell County Courthouse
Photo courtesy William Beauchamp, July 2009
Glen Rose, Texas - Somervell County courthouse clock tower
Courthouse clock tower
Photo courtesy William Beauchamp, July 2009
Glen Rose, Texas - Somervell County courthouse cornerstone
Photo courtesy William Beauchamp, July 2009
More Texas Cornerstoners | Pitted Dates
Glen Rose TX - Somervell County Courthouse staircase
Staircase
Photo courtesy William Beauchamp, July 2009
Glen Rose TX - Somervell County Courthouse second floor courtroom
Courtroom
Photo courtesy William Beauchamp, July 2009
Glen Rose, Texas - Somervell County Courthouse 1939 photo
Somervell County Courthouse as it appeared in 1939
Photo courtesy TXDoT

1882 Somervell County Courthouse

1882 Somervell County Courthouse, Glen Rose, Texas
1882 Somervell County courthouse
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, February, 2008
Photographer's Note:
This photo of the 1882 Somervell County courthouse is in a display case at the current courthouse. It was donated by Bro. E.B. McCown, a descendant of the county's first sheriff. A card next to the photo reads as follows:

FIRST COURTHOUSE BUILT ON PRESENT SITE
When this building was started ca. 1880, they got as far as the tops of the first-floor windows. Financial difficulties forced the court to wait a few years before finishing the building in the late 1880s. This structure burned in January 1893, but the walls were retained in the present building.

- Terry Jeanson
Glen RoseT X - SomervellCountyCourthouse Historical  Marker
Somervell County Courthouse Historical Marker
Photo courtesy William Beauchamp, July 2009
Historical Marker Text:
Somervell County Courthouse
Built 1893. Late Victorian style. Native limestone construction.

County was organized in 1875 and named for General Alexander Somervell (1796-1854), Texas soldier, colonist, and statesman.

Court was first held in an old store across road from Barnard's Mill. A log cabin (1 block w) was used later. Third courthouse (first on this site) was finished in 1882 but burned in 1893, along with many valuable records. Present structure has a fireproof vault.
Courthouse Square

The courthouse square, much like the courthouse building, is modest in size. The two most notable buildings on the square are the First National Bank Building and the Campbell Building.

The courthouse square has been a popular gathering place for Somervell residents since the late 1880's. Back before cars and grocery stores, farmers would bring stock animals and other goods to the square to sell. That tradition is still alive and well today. Local farmers continue to bring fresh fruits, vegetables, and other items to the town square for sale. They set up on the west side of the square where there are benches and plenty of shade provided by old pecan trees. Both the farmers tasty offerings and the conversation are refreshingly unique.
Somervell County History
Around 1860 Charles and Juana Barnard built a three story stone gristmill along the Paluxy River. The town that eventually grew around the mill was called Barnard's Mill. In 1871 T.C. Jordan, bought the mill and surrounding land from Charles Barnard.Mrs. T.C. Jordan called the area around Barnard's Mill Rose Glen as a reminder of her native Scotland. Years later the town's people voted to rename the town Glen Rose.

The county of Somervell was formed in 1875 from about 200 square miles of land perviously part of Hood County. The county name honors Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Somervell.

By 1876 the town population grew sufficiently that T.C. Jordan believed the time was ripe to build a town square. Jordan promised to build a county courthouse if some of the town's citizens would buy property around the square. The first courthouse on the square was completed around 1892 and burned down in 1893.

Second courthouse on the square, the present day structure, was ordered built by the commissioners' court in 1893 and completed late in the same year for a cost of $13,500. This courthouse employed elements of the Romanesque Revival architectural style. The building also featured a mansard roof treatment and ornamental iron crestings which are characteristic of the General Grant style. The courthouse was constructed of locally queried limestone.

In 1902 a tornado damaged the courthouse and many other buildings on the town square. The courthouse roof and clock tower were severely damaged. At that time, the small rural county didn't have the financial resources to properly repair the roof or replace the clock tower. A modest roof repair was made by local craftsmen which omitted the clock and some of the ornate details of the original roof.

In 1986 the Somervell County Commissioners' Court voted to restore the county courthouse. The work was completed by Ray J. Miller Construction Company of Meridian under the direction of architects Huckabee and Donham of Stephenville, Texas. Final cost of restoring the building was $601,111.20.


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Bibliography:
Leach, Dorothy, The Story of The Somervell County Courthouse. Somervell: Somervell Historical Commission, 1987.
Texas Historical Commission, Texas Historic Sites Atlas. http://atlas.thc.state.tx.us/, 2003.

Copyright 2003 by Sam Fenstermacher All rights reserved
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