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Texas | Architecture | Courthouses

THE JEFFERSON COUNTY COURTHOUSE
County Seat - Beaumont, Texas

Jefferson County has had four courthouses:
1838, 1855, 1893 and the present 1931 courthouse with 1981 addition

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Beaumont TX - Jefferson County Courthouse
The 1931 Jefferson County Courthouse
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, December 2007

The 1931 Jefferson County Courthouse -
Beaumont, Texas

Date - 1931
Architect - Fred C. Stone & A. Babin
Style - Moderne. 14 Stories
Material - Stone and brick
Location - 1149 Pearl St. at Franklin, Beaumont
Jefferson County Courthouse, Beaumont, Texas
The Courthouse as it appeared in 1939
Photo Courtesy TxDoT
Text from the historical marker in front of the courthouse:
"The first county building constructed at this site was a jailhouse completed in 1838, two years after the organization of Jefferson County. Located on land acquired from Nancy Tevis, a pioneer settler of the area, it also housed county offices and courts. When the commissioners court outgrew the facility, sessions were held in private homes. The first courthouse here was completed in 1854. Built by John A. Beaumont, it was a two-story square structure surrounded by a six-foot picket fence. Baptist and Methodist congregations conducted Sunday services in the building and during the Civil War it was leased to D. T. Inglehart, a Confederate surgeon, for use as a hospital. A second courthouse was constructed in 1893 , twelve years after the incorporation of Beaumont. Designed by E. T. Heiner, it was a three-story red brick building with white trim. Following the area oil boom of the 1920s it proved inadequate to meet the needs of the growing population and was replaced by the present brick courthouse in 1931. Designed by Fred Stone and A. Babin, the fourteen-story building features art deco styling in the use of sculpted ornamentation and marble interior work."
1931 Jefferson County Courthouse, Beaumont, Texas  old postcard
"The ultimate potential of the skyscraper to serve as an icon of Texas government was demonstrated in Beaumont in 1931."
Professor Jay C. Henry in Architecture in Texas 1895 - 1945

Postcard courtesy rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
High-rise courthouses are a rare item in Texas. If you counted them on one hand; you'd still have a few fingers left over. Just when tall buildings came into vogue, money was tight and Art Deco was a little too flashy for counties wanting to modernize their courthouse. Art Deco might appeal to Dallasites, but most local governments felt that county business should be conducted under no-nonsense clocktowers and flagpoles - and not under the gaze of fancy streamlined eagles.

Jefferson County has always enjoyed going a little against the grain. Besides their tall courthouse, they are also the only county seat in Texas to have erected a completely separate sub-courthouse (in Port Arthur). Other counties hit by the Depression had to forgo courthouse replacements, but Beaumonts oil reserves made the future look bright and Beaumonters were eager to add to the impressive collection of downtown buildings they had been busily erecting in the twenties.

They may have looked eastward to Baton Rouge at what would become Huey P. Long's beautiful monument to himself (AKA The Louisiana State Capitol) or they may have looked westward at the plans for the still-to-be-built San Jacinto monument.
Beaumont TX - Jefferson County Courthouse
Jefferson County Courthouse close up view
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, December 2007
Jefferson County Courthouse front carved stone panels
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, December 2007
The Deco details of the courthouse include carved limestone vignettes of lumbermen, farmers, oilmen and cowboys at work. Work was a wonderful thing to celebrate now that so many people had the time to sit around and miss it.
Beaumont TX - Jefferson County Courthouse
Details over the windows on the side of the east wing
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, December 2007
Skull architectural detail
Deco Texano
TE photo 9-04
deco eagle architectural detail
Deco Eagle Detail
TE photo 9-04
Jefferson County Courthouse entrance, Beaumont, Texas
Main Entrance
TE photo 9-04
Jefferson County Courthouse stone work
Details and Texture

TE photo 9-04
Jefferson County Courthouse flag pole base
One of the flagpole bases.
TE photo 9-04
View of Jefferson County Courthouse, from railroad  track
Even from the tracks, the building retains its dignity
TE Photo 9-04
Cow skull and oil derrick architectural detail
Cow skull and oil derrick detail
TE photo 9-04
Beaumont TX - Jefferson County Courthouse
Along with all of the intricate carvings, there are sayings carved near the roof on the front and back of the east and west wings. The ones on the front read : "Wisdom Justice Power - Guardians of the Law" and "Equity and Utility - Foundations of the Law" The ones on the back read: "Let the Public Good Be Served" and "Let Liberty Be Regulated By Law"
- Terry Jeanson, December 2007 photos
Beaumont TX Jefferson County Courthouse Carved dedication
Beaumont TX Jefferson County Courthouse Carved dedication
The carved dedication over the front entrance reads as follows: "In the fullness of our county's happiness and prosperity is erected this building dedicated to the affairs of all her citizens."
- Terry Jeanson, December 2007 photos
Beaumont TX - Jefferson County Courthouse Lobby
Courthouse Lobby
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, December 2007
The 317th District Courtroom
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, December 2007
Beaumont TX - Jefferson County Courthouse
Beaumont TX - Jefferson County Courthouse
More courtroom details
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, December 2007
The 500 acres that comprise downtown Beaumont are sprinkled with Deco details. A few block away the First National Bank Building (c.1937) on Orleans Street has more work-related carvings, and the Federal building has artistic longhorn skulls carved over all entrances. The Kyle Block (the 200 block of Orleans Street) is a rare example of Zigzag Deco.

The closest design to the brick Jefferson County courthouse could very well be the much shorter stone courthouse for Eastland County in Eastland, Texas.
Eastland County Courthouse, Eastland, Texas old photo
The 1928 (present) Eastland County Courthouse mentioned above.
1939 Photo courtesy TXDoT
Jefferson County Courthouse, Beaumont, Texas
Jefferson County Courthouse
TE photo 9-04
In comparing this courthouse to the famous Nebraska State Capitol, Professor Henry states: "The detailing is skillfully handled to emphasize the vertical proportions, but this courthouse seems more related to commercial skyscrapers of the late 1920s [than to the Nebraska Capitol Building].
1981 Jefferson County Courthouse Beaumont TX
The modern Jefferson County courthouse was built in 1981 out of pink granite. The design comes from the White Budd Van Ness Partnership.
- Terry Jeanson, December 2007

The 1893 Jefferson County Courthouse
Beaumont, Texas

Previous Jefferson County courthouse, Beaumont, Texas old postcard
The 1893 Jefferson County Courthouse
Postcard courtesy rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
Architect: Eugene Heiner

The regrettable part of the Jefferson County Courthouse saga is that it replaced a building designed by prolific courthouse architect Eugene Heiner. Of the many courthouses designed by Heiner in the 19th Century, only his 1897 Lavaca County courthouse in Hallettsville is still standing.
See Beaumont, Texas
Jefferson County
More Texas Courthouses


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