Colorado County (Columbus)
Year Built: 1891.
Architect: Eugene Heiner.
Colorado County is one of the original counties of the Republic of Texas, was formed in 1836 and organized in 1837. The first district court was held by Robert M. Williamson in April 1837 at Columbus, the county seat.
The Courthouse was built in 1891 in Second Empire style with locally made brick. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it features a Neo-classic copper dome and a working, four-face Seth Thomas clock. A magnificent Tiffany-style stained glass dome is above the original 1890 judge’s bench, bailiff box, and witness stand in the District Courtroom. To the East of the courthouse, you’ll find the historic District Court Oak.
This building is the third courthouse erected in Columbus, with the first having been built in 1836. One courthouse was to be of pine harvested in Bastrop and floated down the Colorado River, but high water sent the wood floating right past Columbus (and not a few surprised carpenters).
The original design included a tall clock tower rising from the center of a hipped roof but a 1909 hurricane dispensed with the tower and damaged most of the roof. The resulting repairs modified the design with a more fashionable early 20th century Italian Renaissance Revival dome that continues to crown the courthouse today. The copper dome features alternating windows and festooned panels around the base and a glass skylight at the top. The dome underwent restoration work in 1953, and again in 1979, where the acoustic tile ceilings were removed and the glass repaired. The red tile roof, however, suffered considerable damage during a 1981 storm “of tornadic force”, which, despite repairs, may have been instrumental in the collapse of a large portion of the plaster ceiling above the District Courtroom in 2006, on a day in which court was supposed to be in session but, through fortunate coincidence, the trial on the docket had been rescheduled. An investigation revealed that water damage combined with improper attachment of the plaster lath to the wood framing had caused the structural failure.
A final restoration, completed in 2014 by way of the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, assisted in returning most of the details in the Colorado County courthouse to their 1910 iteration. The restored courthouse provides the epicenter of the Columbus town square where, together with the surrounding Victorian homes and period commercial buildings, visitors may admire one of the more prominent historic districts in the state. The courthouse rededication took place on May 17, 2014.
Heiner also designed the following Texas Courthouses:
- Lavaca County (1897)
- Brazos County (1892) (razed)
- Brazoria County (1897)(currently a library)
- Jefferson County (1883) (razed)
- Austin County (1888 — destroyed by fire)
- Matagorda County (1895)(razed)
- Polk County (1884)(razed)
- Falls County (1888)(razed)
- Jasper County
- Runnels County (1889)
- Wharton County (1889).