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    Texas | Buildings | Courthouses

    McLennan County Courthouse
    County seat - Waco, Texas

    McLennan County has had four courthouses:
    1850, 1856, 1877 and 1901
    See McLennan County Courthouses Historical Marker

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    McLennan County Courthouse today, Waco, Texas
    The 1901 McLennan County Courthouse in Waco
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, February 2005

    The Present McLennan County Courthouse
    - Waco, Texas

    Date - 1901
    Architect - J. Reily Gordon
    The Beaux-Arts style building is said to have been inspired by St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. Noteworthy details include a series of eagles spaced along the base of the dome.

    Recorded Texas Historic Landmark


    See McLennan County Courthouse Historical Marker
    McLennan County Courthouse dome eagles and statue, Waco, Texas
    The Courthouse courthouse dome with its open-winged eagles.
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, February 2005
    See Eagles Eyes of Texas
    McLennan County Courthouse front view, Waco, Texas
    Courthouse facing Washington Avenue
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, February 2005
    McLennan County Courthouse entrance, Waco, Texas
    The Courthouse entrance
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, February 2005
    McLennan County Courthouse Goddess of Justice, Waco, Texas
    "On top of the courthouse's dome is a small lantern, crowned by a statue of Themis, the Greek goddess of divine law and justice. The statue is holding the scales of Justice in her left hand and the hilt of a sword in her right. The blade of the sword fell off after a storm and was never replaced." - Terry Jeanson, February 2005 photo
    McLennan County Courthouse east wing, Waco, Texas
    The Courthouse east wing. Notice the Texas red granite in the courthouse's base. - Terry Jeanson, February 2005 photo
    McLennan County Courthouse dome skylight, Waco, Texas
    The interior dome skylight.
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, November 2004
    McLennan County Courthouse historical marker, Waco, Texas
    Historical marker
    On Courthouse Square in Waco
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, November 2004
    Historical Marker Text

    McLennan County Courthouse

    Seat of Justice for county organized in 1850 by founders of Waco, to give the young city added strength. Ironically, until the early 20th century, county oustripped city in prosperity. This courthouse (the county's fourth) was built during peak of central Texas cotton wealth. The renaissance revival design by J.Riely Gordon of Dallas uses steel, limestone, concrete, and marble, with Texas red granite in the rusticated base. Housed here are numerous state, district, and county courts, with a law library open to all citizens.
    Historical Marker Text
    On Courthouse Square, Waco
    The Courthouses of McLennan County
    In January 1850, the Texas Legislature created McLennan County from portions of Robertson and Milam counties, naming it for Neil McLennan, who had settled along the South Bosque River. In September of that year, the Commissioners Court began preparations for constructing a two-story log court building, which was completed in August 1851. During construction, county judge R.E.B. Baylor held court in a private schoolhouse.

    By 1856, the county needed a larger courthouse. In August, they levied taxes to raise funds for a brick building, and Robert H. Smith and N. M. Saunders served as contractors. Because of problems with the structure, including two fatalities due to faulty second floor doors, the county built a new courthouse and jail in the mid-1870s. Noted architect W.C. Dodson designed the structure, completed in July 1877 by builders J.W. Mann & Bro., and Trice & Harris. Dodson's design, a two-story brick building, featured a Mansard roof and clock tower, and was celebrated for its beauty. By 1900, however, it also became too small for the county's needs. Dodson recommended that the county accept the plans of James Riely Gordon, renowned throughout Texas and other parts of the nation for his courthouse designs. The Commissioners Court awarded the construction contract to Tom Lovell of Denton and accepted the finished building on March 3, 1902.

    One hundred years later, in September 2002, McLennan County residents celebrated the centennial of their fourth courts building, a magnificent Renaissance Revival courthouse crowned with statues of eagles as well as Themis, Justitia and Liberty. Today, the building remains an emblem of pride and justice, a link to the county's history and a symbol of its future.
    McLennan County Courthouse, Waco, Texas old photo
    McLennan County Courthouse as it appeared in 1939
    Photo courtesy TXDoT

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    McLennan County Towns and Ghost Towns
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