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Texas | Columns

Restoring
Two Old Reds


by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

A couple of grand old ladies, both with identical nicknames, are getting facelifts on different ends of East Texas.

In Red River County, one of East Texas' oldest and northernmost counties, the courthouse at Clarksville is undergoing a renovation deserving of its history. And as a part of the renovation, the courthouse clock, nicknamed Old Red, is scheduled to be rebuilt.

Built in 1885, the courthouse boasts turrets and buttresses of mellow yellow stone cut from a quarry near Honey Grove. Because its architecture is part Victorian, part Gothic, and part Italian Renaissance, someone once described it as Late 19th Century Debatable. The courthouse clock ticked from 2:30 p.m. on May 27, 1885, until it developed troubles and was electrified in 1961. This saved the janitor of 30 minutes of hard winding once a week, but four months later, at 4:35 a.m. on a June morning, Old Red started striking and struck her bells 120 time before someone pulled the plug.

A town wag described it as the night that got later than it ever has been.
Red River County courthouse tower and clock








Red River County Courthouse Tower, Clarksville
TE photo, 2000



Some 150 miles south of Clarksville, in the small town of Trinity on a peninsula of Lake Livingston, another Old Red is getting a new life.

Trinity's Old Red is a schoolhouse built in 1911-13. During its life, the red-brick building served thousands of Trinity County children.

The building had been abandoned as a school and was becoming a community eyesore until its former students stepped in and raised some $100,000 to restore it with a new exterior, new woodwork, and other improvements.

With the exterior completed, the Save Old Red Committee will turn the building back to its owner, the Trinity Independent School District, for interior remodeling.

Old Red's rescue might not have happened if Raymond Smith, who attended school inside Old Red in the 1940s. He got involved in 1993 with other ex-students when they learned of the building's possible demise.

Old Red served as Trinity's only school building until 1928 when a second two-story structure was built next door to house the town's junior high and high school.

Although Old Red's bricks were later painted yellow, their original red color gave the school its nickname. The building was built in the shape of a T to capture wind from any direction it could blow in Trinity. The building had 91 wooden windows, which were copied by the remodeling crews, many of which were made up of Old Red's former students.

"When I found out Old Red had been condemned and was going to be torn down, it really tugged at my heart," said Smith.

All Things Historical Feb. 11, 2001
Published by permission.



Related Topics:
East Texas Towns
Texas Courthouses
Texas Schoolhouses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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