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    Texas | Buildings | Courthouses

    THE COMAL COUNTY COURTHOUSE
    County Seat - New Braunfels, Texas

    Comal County has had two courthouses:
    1898
    1860

    Book Hotel Here > New Braunfels Hotels

    The newly restored Comal County Courthouse
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, January 2013

    Comal County Courthouse - New Braunfels, Texas

    Date - 1898
    Architect - J. Riely Gordon
    Style - Romanesque Revival
    Material - Limestone

    THE COURTHOUSES OF COMAL COUNTY

    by Terry Jeanson

    Comal County was founded in 1846 with New Braunfels as its county seat, which was founded a year earlier by German immigrants. The first county court was held on August 7, 1846 in the home of Conrad Seabaugh, the first county clerk of Comal County. His house was on the northeast corner of the main plaza. District court was held at the German First Protestant Church, but the church council evicted them by April of 1847. Still searching for a permanent place to hold court and not having any money to buy land or build a courthouse, county officials resorted to buying two small buildings for $600 from Theodor Sterzing which were located on S. Seguin St. between the Elks Lodge and the home of Dr. Friedrich Frueholz. The records were moved to these buildings on August 1, 1850.

    With financial help from the state legislature, the building of Comal County’s first real courthouse began in 1857 on the southeast corner of the main plaza. Requests made to build the courthouse in the center of the main plaza were rejected. The courthouse, designed by William C. A. Thielepape of San Antonio and built by Ferdinand Simon of New Braunfels, was a two-story rectangular building with a flat roof built with local limestone. It had corner quoins, segmented arches over the windows and a rectangular parapet on one side. Completed in 1859 at a cost of around $9,000, the building was officially dedicated on April 30, 1860. In 1878, a county jail was built to the rear of the courthouse. Designed by Texas courthouse architect F.E. Ruffini, the building mimicked two other jails that Ruffini designed for Collin and Robertson counties, both of which are still standing. The 1878 jail in New Braunfels stood until 1958.

    By 1897, it was thought by many that the 1860 courthouse was becoming too dilapidated and that a new courthouse was needed. Once again requests were made to build the courthouse in the center of the main plaza and once again they were rejected. Instead, land was purchased on the northwest corner of the plaza where a hotel by Samuel Millett was located. San Antonio architect James Riely Gordon, who had already designed several courthouses in Texas, was an early favorite to design the courthouse, but county judge Adolph Giesecke and the commissioners court decided to advertise for competing designs from architects around the state. Gordon’s design was ultimately chosen, against the objections of the county judge and August Schulze, Jr., one of the county commissioners, who refused to have their names put on the cornerstone. (Robert Bodemann was elected county judge in November of 1898 and his name was put on the cornerstone.)

    The courthouse was built with local limestone with red granite steps and the Gordon trademark of red granite columns at the arched corner entrances and second story balconies over the south and west side entrances. The third story balconies have a stone balustrade. Rising from the center of the building is a square tower with tall, open archways that is tapered towards the top. The hipped, metal roofs have decorative dormers rising from each side. The district courtroom, with curving walls on the north and east sides, was originally two stories with balcony seating and receding arches in a bay behind the judge’s bench. Completed in December of 1898 at a cost of $36,600, the new courthouse was officially dedicated on January 22, 1899.

    In 1930-31, a three story jail and additional office space was added to the north side of the courthouse using the same local limestone. The original north side entrance was closed off and the district courtroom was cut in half with the upper balcony area being transformed into office space. In 1951-52, an addition was made to the county clerk and district offices, closing off the original east side entrance. The Nowotny building on the west side of the courthouse (formerly the Lenzen Hotel, built in 1901,) was sold to the county in 1963 and turned into a temporary annex. Further renovations to the district courtroom and the addition of an elevator and air conditioning took place at the courthouse in 1966. In 1974, the annex was renovated. In 1976, the county installed bells in the courthouse tower which were donated by Walter Faust, Jr. In 1985, the courthouse annex was demolished for the construction of the current red brick annex which was completed in 1986 and dedicated in 1987. The courthouse was renovated again at this time.

    After many years of remodels and additions and the deterioration of antiquated plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning systems, the time came to restore the courthouse. Denied funding in 2008, in 2010, Comal County received a $3.4 million grant from the Texas Historical Commission’s Courthouse Preservation Program towards a complete restoration of the courthouse to its 1898 condition. The 1931 and 1952 additions were demolished, reopening the original north and east side entrances. The interior, including the two story courtroom, was restored to its original color scheme and configuration, but with all the modern conveniences needed for today’s courthouses. The total cost of the restoration totaled $8.6 million. A rededication for the courthouse was held on January 22, 2013, exactly 114 years after the building’s original dedication.


    Sources: County history from The Handbook of Texas Online. Courthouse history from the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung special centennial insert by Myra Lee Adams Goff, January 17, 1999. Jail history from “Wanted: Historic County Jails of Texas” by Edward A. Blackburn, Jr., 2006.
    Comal County courthouse, Texas old photo
    Comal County Courthouse as it appeared in 1939
    Photo courtesy TXDoT
    New Braunfels Tx Comal County Courthouse
    Comal County Courthouse in June 2003
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson
    TX - Comal County Courthouse Tower
    The courthouse tower which rises to a height of 83 feet. The bells in the tower were not installed until 1976.
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, January 2013
    A view of the northeast corner of the courthouse before restoration
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, January 2010
    TX - Comal County Courthouse During Restoration
    During restoration in September of 2011.
    The remaining portion of the old jail is at the right.

    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson
    TX - Comal County Courthouse Restored District Courtroom
    The restored district courtroom. According to the restoration engineers the color is officially “dusky-rose.”
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, January 2013
    TX - Comal County Courthouse Courtroom Wallpaper1
    The original wallpaper in the courtroom was uncovered during restoration and restored, which included the gold highlights to give the decoration a three dimensional look.
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, January 2013
    TX - Comal County Courthouse courtroom
    First floor courtroom on the north side below the district courtroom. The restored judge’s bench is the original from 1898. A spiral staircase to the right leads up to the district courtroom. The spiral staircase had to be reconstructed and lowered in through the ceiling.
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, January 2013
    TX - Comal County Courthouse Stairwell
    Courthouse Stairwell
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, January 2013
    TX Comal County Courthouse Hallway Tiles
    Interior hallway on the first floor by the staircase. The tile on the third floor was still intact at the time of restoration but had to be replicated on the lower floors.
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, January 2013
    TX - Comal County Courthouse Tile Floor
    The restored north entrance. The original tile was discovered underneath a modern flooring and restored at each entrance.
    Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, January 2013
    New Braunfels' Comal County Courthouse &
    Giddings' Lee County Courthouse
    The 1898 Comal County Courthouse designed by J. Riely Gordon is nearly identical to Gordon's Lee County Courthouse (1897) in Giddings. He saved money on blueprints. The resemblance is seldom noticed since one is brick (Lee County) and the other stone (Comal). Giddings' is also free standing on a huge lawn while the New Braunfels building has had an extension added. A downspout on the courthouse passes right in front of the cornerstone obscuring Gordon's name.
    Comal County Courthouse
    Lee County Courthouse
    Comal County Courthouse
    The design in stone
    TE photo
    Lee County Courthouse in Giddings
    The design in brick
    TE photo
    Comal County courthouse and statue
    Confederate soldier
    and the courthouse
    TE photo

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