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History of Cass County Courthouse stretches back to 1861

January 11, 2022 at 10:00 p.m.
On a recent morning sunrise, the Cass County Courthouse is pictured at its location on the downtown square in Linden. (Photo by Neil Abeles)

Here is an unusual building dressed up recently for the holiday season. It is a distinguished structure which is usually just as busy as the cars around it make it appear in this scene. No hints because such a suggestion would make it too easy for the reader. Guess away and come back next week for the answer.

Of course, the Cass County Courthouse is well known and appreciated. It's the oldest continually operating county courthouse in Texas.

Sue Morris Lazara in her book "The Historic Cass County Courthouse" explains it this way.

"The origins of the Cass County Courthouse of 1861 are particularly connected to a man who served as chief justice from 1856 to 1862, a complex and fascinating man who called himself Charles Ames.

"Ames' life story explains much about the courthouse building materials and the construction style/methods, but it tells even more about the overall societal conditions that defined life in that formative era of Cass County history.

"The 1861 courthouse conceived by Charles Ames is actually the second of two official Cass County Courthouses. The first was an 1854 frame structure ... work began on the new brick courthouse in 1859 and was completed in early 1861.

"Contractors Lissenbee and Veal utilized slave labor to mine and haul clay and then to burn the 400,000 locally manufactured bricks used in the building's exceptionally thick walls ... these remarkable walls have proven their strength for over a century and a half, surviving two tornadoes and a major fire.

"The small but stately Greek Revival courthouse changed but little into the 20th century, its classical cupola rising as a friendly beacon to the surrounding population.

"During the early 1900's, the original design underwent a series of changes, some of them obscuring the building's original 1861 classical form. At that time, elements of Victorian Queen Anne architecture were laid on, creating a mixed style.

"Fortunately, a highly competent architect named Stewart Moore was commissioned in 1917 to upgrade ... and restore the purity of style.

"A near tragedy occurred in 1933 when a serious fire gutted the courtroom and collapsed the second story roof ... Fred Halsey was commissioned to lead the necessary repairs ... and retain the handsome classical features of the 1917 design ...

"Having made his own reputation in retrofitting fire-damaged masonry buildings with robust steel trusses ... (Halsey) took the opportunity to lift the courthouse roofline, thereby expanding the third floor to its present size."

According to online Wikipedia research, the Cass County Courthouse was built in 1859 and has remained in operation since 1861, making it the only existing Antebellum courthouse in Texas and therefore making it the oldest courthouse in continuous operation. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Place in 1979.

photo Here is an unusual building dressed up recently for the holiday season. It is a distinguished structure which is usually just as busy as the cars around it make it appear in this scene. No hints because such a suggestion would make it too easy for the reader. Guess away and come back next week for the answer. (Photo by Neil Abeles)
photo Sue Lazara is pictured in 2015 leading a tour of the recently restored Cass County Courthouse. (Photo by Neil Abeles)

Print Headline: History of Cass County Courthouse stretches back to 1861

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