|Bell County Courthouse
after recent restoration
Texas Historic Landmark
Photo courtesy Barclay
Gibson, March 2003
Date - 1884
Architect - Jasper N. Preston and Sons
Style - Renaissance Revival
The 1884 Bell
County Courthouse has recently undergone a restoration that replaced
the bell tower that had been missing for many years. The same construction
firm that finished off the clock tower for Cameron's Milam
County Courthouse did this job. Modern lightweight materials
now allow many courthouses to appear the way their architects intended.
Three Bell County
courthouses have stood on this site--part of the 120 acres given
by Matilda F. Connell Allen for the location of the county seat.
Prior to erection of a courthouse, early official business of the
county (created and organized, 1850) was handled in blacksmith shop
of John Danley, the first chief justice. His anvil (in one of the
three original buildings in Belton) was
the council table.
First courthouse was a one-story (16' x 18') frame building erected
by contractor Thomas T. Havens in 1851, at cost of $199, financed
by sale of city lots.
On April 1, 1858, the commissioners contracted for a two-story (50'
x 60') native limestone building with intersecting main halls, fireplaces
on each floor, double doors and other fine details. Cost ($13,625)
was so resented that none of the commissioners were re-elected.
Simeon Bramlet was the contractor. This building was in service
from Dec. 1, 1859, until 1884.
Cornerstone for third courthouse was laid on June 24, 1884; structure
was completed by May 30, 1885. Ben D. Lee contracted to build it
for $64.965. It has been improved at later dates. The county clerk's
office was fireproofed in 1898. In 1950, there was extensive remodeling
passageways, round-arch and pedimented windows, a clock tower with
columned gallery, and a rusticated limestone finish, Jasper N. Preston
& Son of Austin designed the 1885 Bell County Courthouse in the
Renaissance Revival style. Ben D. Lee served as contractor. The
original tower and dome were removed in the 1950s, but were rebuilt
in 1999 based on documentation provided by historic photographs.
A fine example of Preston's work, the style is echoed throughout
Belton's downtown, in large part rebuilt
after an 1889 fire razed much of the commercial district.
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 2000
|Bell County Courthouse
as it appeared in 1939
Photo courtesy TXDoT
view of the Bell County Courthouse and courthouse square
Photo courtesy THC
| Bell County
Courthouse in the 1960s (Note missing bell tower)
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
circa 1940 courtesy
of Belton and Bell County
Belton and Bell
County were named after Peter (I-might-just-be-a-Colonel-but-I've-got-a-Texas-County-named-after-me)
Bell. Bell was a mere Colonel in the Civil War, but he was
a Mexican War Veteran, and before that, a San
Jacinto Veteran. In his spare time he was a Texas Ranger, a Congressional
Representative and a Governor.
Belton is a little different from other County
Seats, in that it hasn't the dominant population in the County. Belton's
18,878 are quite happy where they are and with Temple's
68,218 being where they are.
|Statue of Peter
H. Bell in front of the Bell County Courthouse in Belton.