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Dallas County Courthouse (Texas)
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Raven
N 32° 46.719 W 096° 48.442
14S E 705357 N 3628876
Quick Description: The Dallas County ("Old Red") Courthouse in Dallas, Texas was built in 1892 and served the judicial needs of the community until 1966. It now houses both the Dallas Visitors Information Center and the Old Red Museum.
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 9/16/2014 11:21:04 AM
Waymark Code: WMMG94
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Marine Biologist
Views: 3

Long Description:
Built in 1890 and completed in 1982, the Dallas County Courthouse -- a.k.a. the "Old Red Courthouse" -- was created by Architect Max A. Orlopp to serve the Dallas County, Texas community after its three previous predecessors had burned down in relatively short order (with the 1st courthouse, built not far from this location, washed away by floods from the Trinity River).

Designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style and meant to last for a long time, the building was conceived with maximum fireproofing in mind: "Old Red" (as it is affectionately called) was made of huge blocks of blue granite from Arkansas and red sandstone from Pecos, Texas. The structure did not need any significant renovations until 1968, two years after a nearby new building was erected to replace it as the county's official Courthouse. The building was ultimately listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and currently houses both the Dallas Visitors Information Center and the "Old Red Museum", a museum showcasing the history of the city of Dallas, Texas.

Per the National Register of Historic Places records:

"The Dallas County Courthouse, a massive structure of contrasting blue granite and red Pecos sandstone, was built in the Romanesque Revival style. The primary architect, M.A. Orlopp, was born in Brooklyn, New York, to German immigrant parents. In June 1881, Orlopp graduated from the United States Naval Academy, and spent the next four years surveying railroads for the United States Corps of Engineers. At the time of his commission the Dallas Courthouse he was practicing as a principal in the firm of Orlopp and Kusener of Little Rock, Arkansas. Originally the building was dominated by a massive central tower 205 feet in height which, at the time of its erection, made it the second tallest building in the state. It housed four clock faces and a 4,500 pound Howard bell. In February of 1919 a structural failure forced removal of the tower.

Otherwise the exterior largely retains its historic character. Rising from a one-story base of blue granite from Arkansas, the succeeding stories are of red Pecos sandstone enhanced by contrasting stringcourses and window enframements of the lighter stone. The masonry is strongly textured and features the heavily arched openings characteristic of the Romanesque. The entrances are supported on marble columns from Burnet. Eight circular turrets are dominant visual elements of the building as it now stands. At two elevations projecting pavilions rise to triangular termination lacking only the small flanking spires with which they were originally adorned. Originally each elevation featured a four foot terra cotta griffin from the Indianapolis Terra Cotta Company as adornment. Only two remain, one in its historic position, and the other preserved in the Dallas Historical Commission's archives.

The interior retains many of its historic features. Marble wainscots appear throughout and many cast iron decorative and structural features are still extant. Several major renovations have occurred; the first on November 4, 1915, when the Woerner and Cole firm was allocated $60.00 for drawing plans detailing the installation of electric lights. In November of 1968, the firm of Mollat D. Adams undertook improvements of lighting and plumbing facilities and the installation of two staircases and a new elevator. The contract for renovation was awarded to the Jansen Company at a cost of $13.50 a square foot, with a $584,000.00.

Despite these modifications the quadrilateral layout typical of Texas courthouses of the period is preserved along with much of the original character of the exterior. The Dallas County Courthouse has been described as "second to none in the South, a building to reflect the wealth and enterprise of the states' leading county." It is certainly one of the more significant Romanesque Revival structures in Texas.

The historic Dallas County Courthouse has regional architectural significance. One of the largest Romanesque Revival buildings to be erected in the state, it is also one of the most handsome. Good proportions and interesting massing with cylindrical forms juxtaposed against rectangular forms all contribute to the strength of the architectural statement. The use of arched openings of various proportions is successfully unified on the two narrow facades by two story arcades comprising dominant central features on each elevation. Noteworthy details further contributing to the visual impact of the design include archivists in strong relief, slender engaged columns flanking the openings of the upper stories, and decorative tympanums in the two-story range of arches. While the use of stone from state quarries provides local association, the stylistic details are consistent with Romanesque buildings found in other sections of the United States."
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