Zavala County Courthouse (Crystal City)


Year Built: 1970

Architect: Gene P. Hobart

Cost: $475,000

The Zavala County Courthouse is located in Crystal City, Texas. It is one of my least favorite Texas Courthouses, and is in poor condition. A new courthouse annex, which will become the new courthouse is under design by Fisher Heck Architects.

Huge Plaintiff’s verdicts have been issued from this courthouse and Zavala County has long been accused of having runaway juries.

The first county courthouse was located in Batesville, which was the original County Seat. A historical marker located in Batesville reads as follows:

Zavala County was created in 1858 from Maverick and Uvalde counties. Named for Lorenzo de Zavala, a veteran of the Battle of San Jacinto, the county was not organized for judicial purposes until 1884. In that year citizens elected county officials and selected Batesville as the county seat. Batesville originally was known as the Bates Ditch community or Bates City. Elijah A. and Ellen J. Bates are credited with its founding. They came to the area in the late 1860s and became a prominent ranching family. Bates, who is credited with the first irrigation project in the area, began selling two-acre plots of the irrigated farmland, and a settlement grew up near his home. After the selection of Batesville as the Zavala County Seat, Bates conveyed a portion of his land for use as a courthouse square. The first county courthouse and jail were constructed at this site in 1885. Built of burnt bricks made from Leona River soil, the two story courthouse featured offices downstairs and a courtroom upstairs. The structure was used as the county courthouse until 1928, when the seat of government was moved to Crystal City. The old courthouse then was used for a variety of purposes until it was torn down in 1947. (1984)

Zavala County has also played an outsized role in Texas history.

It was at one time the Spinach Capital of the World. Several Popeye the Sailor statues commemorate this history and Crystal City still hosts the Spinach Festival each November.

Legendary Texas Ranger  H. Joaquin Jackson – subject of the fabulous memoir entitled One Ranger  (“One Riot, One Ranger”) and namesake of the Sul Ross State University Law Enforcement Academy – spent significant time in Crystal City and was involved in monitoring and ensuring  a fair election that resulted in an overwhelming win for La Raza Unida party candidates.

Excerpt From the THSA Handbook article about Zavala County:

Zavala County is in an area of Texas that was disputed territory after the Texas Revolution. The Mexican government and the Republic of Texas both laid claim to the land. In an attempt to reinforce the choice of the Rio Grande as the Texas boundary with Mexico, the state legislature in 1846 established a county between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande and called it Zavala County, named for Lorenzo de Zavala, a Mexican colonist and one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Until 1858 the area was attached to the municipality of San Antonio, then to Kinney County, and later to Maverick County. In 1858, when the county was organized, the name was misspelled “Zavalla” by the legislature. A bill entitled “knocking the `L’ out of Zavalla” was introduced and passed in the Texas legislature in 1906, but was rejected by the federal government. Not until 1929 was the mistake corrected.