Open Road

Five Of The Ugliest Texas County Courthouses

We scour the state for the worst in town square municipal cathedrals.

By John Nova Lomax October 16, 2013

With 254 counties, Texas has 95 more than Georgia—the runner-up—and that means that Texas has the most county courthouses in the nation. Indeed, some counties, like Harris and Dallas, have more than one of these buildings. Somewhat miraculously, we did not tear down our old one to make way for the new, unlike too many other jurisdictions even more historically ruthless than we are.  

Lone Star State municipal cathedrals run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous, as we shall not see in the photos below. Nope, this post focuses on only the most tragic inflictions of architectural vandalism to infect our town squares. (And this is not exhaustive. We will return with more later.)

We'll do a round-up of the prettiest later. Luckily there are a lot more of those, so that post is much harder to compile. At any rate, as we write this we're hungry and cranky and stressed and feel more like slinging mud than singing praises.

First, we head all the way out to the far west of the state, to... 

Image: Google Maps

El Paso County

I see you working there, El Paso County. You wanted to fuse the traditional with the modern, the Spanish and Anglo heritages of your bustling border city. You wound up with a Plano-style office cube squatting atop a La Quinta Inn. 

On to Madisonville, deep in the hearta, to...

Image: Google Maps

Madison County, Madisonville

Those wreaths fail to bring much cheer to this grim edifice... And we like the ballsy redneck who quintuple-parked his dually rig and gooseneck trailer right damn-there in front of the courthouse.

Sticking with northeast Texas, we arrive at...

Image: Google Maps

Titus County, Mt. Pleasant

This one has been called the ugliest courthouse in Texas by mutliple sources and reportedly some Titus County residents even brag about it. likens it to "a cross between the Battleship Texas and and a geometrically-challenged Mexican pyramid."

Believe it or not, there's a handsome old building under that brutal slapped-on concrete. It also beggars belief that for much of the last century this building was even uglier, as someone had the bright idea to encase the whole shebang in aluminum siding. (It was stripped off in 1990.) Read the whole history of this monstrosity here.

To Aggieland we go, down to... 

Brazos County, Bryan

Psych! That one above was demolished in 1954 so the good people of Bryan-College Station could feel all fancy-schmancy and modern-like in this totalitarian mausoleum:

But hey, at least they saved the cornerstone!

Last we head deep down Big Thicket way, to...

Hardin County, Kountze

The dome at right is a replica of the one that once topped the circa 1905 courthouse that once stood here. It was demolished in 1958, replaced by a graceless rectangle that reminds me of the recently demolished Shell building on Bellaire. The replica was erected on the site in the 1980s in a fairly pitiful attempt to recapture past glory, but hey, at least it's something like an apology. Here's a pic of the original courthouse.

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