BONUS: Old Kendall County Courthouse (Boerne)
Architect: Philip Zoeller (original); Charles Buckel (expansion); Alfred Giles (addition & facade).
Year Built: 1870; 1886 second floor expansion; 1909 addition and facade.
The Kendall County Courthouse is located in Boerne, Texas. This was once a sleepy German community a short drive from San Antonio. However, Boerne has now been “discovered” and has grown significantly, and essentially become a suburb of San Antonio. Nonetheless, it has a distinctly different feel than being in the big city.
The stone courthouse, initially constructed as a single story rectangle measuring fifty feet long and thirty-two feet deep, with walls eighteen inches thick, first served the county for fifteen years before a period of county growth required some modifications.
By 1885, Boerne and Kendall County had outgrown its courthouse, requiring a change to accommodate its rising population. The commissioners court authorized the addition of a second story on the simple stone structure, complete with a gallery, while maintaining the original building’s rectangular form. By 1909, additional modifications were needed. But this time, rather than hiring little-known designers, Kendall County selected one of the most high-profile architects practicing in Texas at the turn of the century – Alfred Giles.
Giles’ addition to the courthouse reflected the Romanesque Revival movement, a stylistic trend made popular by Giles and his contemporaries throughout the period. The Kendall County courthouse addition features the semi-circular arches familiar in similar Romanesque designs, its main entrance is flanked by octagonal wings, and quarry-faced ashier stonework is accented with cut-stone horizontal banding. A contrast between the structure’s rough and smooth textures in its stonework also reflects the difference between the earlier parts of the building and Giles addition.
The completion date of Giles’ design was also selected at the target date for the courthouse’s restoration, with funding from the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, during the first decade of the 21st century. After a careful demolition of non-historic changes made after 1909, the courthouse details were restored or replicated according to their original design, including those in the impressive district courtroom. This included the replication of the rare painted floor, covered in a geometric pattern of yellow and gray squares. The courtroom’s wooden moldings, finials, and bead-board ceiling were also returned to their original character – an unusual, two-tone shellac finish, a feature perhaps as unique as the region’s eclectic beginnings.
An excellent history of the County and Courthouse can be found on Texas Escapes.
Alfred Giles is one of my favorite courthouse designers. His work can also be seen in the following courthouses:
- Wilson County (1884)
- Presidio County (1886)
- Gillespie County (old courthouse) (1881)
- Webb County (old courthouse) (1909)
- El Paso County (now demolished old courthouse)(1886)
- Brooks County (1914)
- Guadalupe County (now demolished old courthouse)(1889)
- Kerr County (now demolished old courthouse)(1886)
- Kimble County (now demolished old courthouse)(1885)
- Live Oak County (1919)