Van Zandt County Courthouse (Canton)
Architect: Voelcker and Dixon.
Year Built: 1937.
The Van Zandt County Courthouse is located in Canton, Texas. The following detailed description is taken from the 2017 Texas Historical Commission’s application to add the Courthouse to the federal National Register of Historic Places.
The Van Zandt County Courthouse exhibits characteristics of the Classical Moderne style, with simplified, flat facades, and rectangular massing. Additionally, elements of Moderne design are present throughout the courthouse’s interior and exterior. The building’s long axis runs east to west, with its principal entry faces north. The courthouse has a modified rectangular footprint, with the north and south faces of the main block slightly recessed. Two marginally projecting wings flank the main block on its east and west elevations. The building features four floors atop a half- basement (hereafter referred to as the first (ground) floor), with a total area of nearly 8,000 square feet. The first floor is approximately two feet below the nominal grade. The concrete frame structure with concrete decks is clad in limestone with metal casement windows and aluminum spandrels. Stone belt courses, sills, and thresholds are comprised of limestone, and may be of Leuders stone.
At first glance, the courthouse appears bleak and monolithic, with an asymmetrical box-like profile and shallow relief sculptures. The overall appearance is that of a simplified temple abutted by two projecting wings. Pilasters function as pseudo columns separated by dark vertical bands of recessed casement windows and aluminum spandrels operate as voided space and reinforce the building’s verticality. The entablature is simplified, with finely-detailed carvings of incised fluting. The pilasters lack capitals and integrate seamlessly into the tall stone entablature above. The building’s main entry is a single full-view wood French door, topped by a fixed transom covered with vertical grille work, and framed by imposing limestone pilaster and lintel. The courthouse has a flat roof with a single-story utility penthouse visible from the ground on the south and west sides.
From the Courthouse Historical Marker:
Built in 1937 with Public Works Administration funds, this is the sixth building to serve as the Van Zandt County Courthouse. According to local lore, the Commissioners Court decreed that a modern courthouse should be erected in order to provide jobs for men of the county during the Depression era. The stepped massed edifice with cast stone veneer walls features Art Deco and Art Moderne details and is noteworthy for its vertical emphasis and its association with the architectural form of Voelcker and Dixon. The Wichita Falls and Houston-based firm designed several West Texas courthouses in this style.
The present Courthouse replaced the 1896 Courthouse, described as follows:
In 1894, the Van Zandt County Commissioners Court approved construction of a new brick courthouse at this site. Built between 1894 and 1896, it replaced a frame courthouse that had served the county since shortly after the Civil War. The noted San Antonio Architect J. Riely Gordon designed the 1896 courthouse in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. Built on a Greek cross plan, it featured a three-story main structure and a six-story central tower with a copper eagle statue at the top. The building was torn down in the 1930s.