Open Road

Six More Ugly Texas Courthouses

We'll show you some pretty ones later, we promise.

By John Nova Lomax October 16, 2013

Earlier this week we brought you five of the most abominable municipal cathedrals to disgrace Lone Star State town square. Since then several more, some of even worse than several in the first batch, have come to our attention.

And here they are...

Let's start close to home, in...

Image: Google Maps

Matagorda County, Bay City

A distant cousin in the Brutalist family to HISD's old Richmond Ave. "Taj Mahal," its little wonder the soldier atop the war memorial is turning his back. Below is the demolished 1896 courthouse.

Expensive to maintain it might have been, but it was certainly a more harmonious fit for its surroundings.

Onward to the godforsake wastes between San Angelo and nowhere, to...

Image: Google Maps

Irion County, Mertzon 

A bleak box on a windswept, dead-grass hill, this one makes it in not so much because the building itself is particularly hideous. No, in this case, it's the overall setting, clinical depression made visible, a honky-tonk dirge in concrete, glass, scraggly oak and human misery. The only birds you see here are circling vultures, scorpions and spiders the only crawling beasts.

Burning rubber, we escape this nightmare, only to land in an East Texas version of the same hell, in...

Image: Google Maps

Bowie County, New Boston

Bowie County has an odd structure—the official county seat is in Boston, while this magnificently uninspiring convention center-looking courthouse is on the edge of New Boston, right by the Mickey D's. Soul-crushing. Seriously, this looks more like a place that would host America's last Beanie Baby confab or a Molly Hatchet concert rather than grave matters of great judicial import.

Bringing it all back close to home, we come to...

Image: Google Maps

Austin County, Bellville

Bellville and Austin County have a lot of very pleasant attributes. Pretty, rolling terrain. Early Anglo-Texas history. A David Adickes bust of Stephen F. Austin. Fascinating little German-Texas villages like Industry, New Ulm, and Cat Spring. Pastries and barbecue, and even an eccentric modern-day castle. A blanket of bluebonnets in the spring and a barrage of pecans every fall.

This bizarre, hulking cube of a courthouse—which squats like Mecca's Kaaba in the middle of the Bellville town square—is not one of those attractions.  Instead, like that baby in the Seinfeld episode, it's breathtaking. (The beloved 1888 courthouse burned to the ground in 1960, perhaps the worst possible year for such an event to take place, given then-prevalent architectural trends.)

We turn last to west Texas... 

Image: Google Maps

Nolan County, Sweetwater

Okay, to be fair, we caught this one with its pants down, as it is currently under renovation. Maybe that project got underway because local architect and courthouse aficionado Leonard G. Lane, Jr. called the brown marble-clad, pre-improvement building the state's ugliest on his amazing blog. While we disagree slightly, it certainly earns that designation on the day the Google car captured it. And for the record, here it is pre-renovation:

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