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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, Waco, Texas old photo
McLennan County Courthouse as it appeared in 1939
Photo courtesy TXDoT
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.

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