Texas has over 250 courthouses, and about eighty of them were built before the century’s turn. Today, almost all of these courthouses offer architectural, civic, and historical tours. One of these historic courthouses is the Old Red, and it also happens to be one of the oldest and most beautiful of them all. In this article, we are going to get to know more about the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History and Culture.
In 1890, the Dallas County Commissioners Court decided to open bids to establish a new courthouse. Because since 1846, the county has lost its four out of five previous courthouses to devastating fires. The Dallas County Commissioners Court hoped that the one that they would build would be entirely fireproof. For this project, the commissioners asked an architect named M.A Orlopp to design the new courthouse and Robert L. James to be the general contractor. Once the construction began, Orlopp and James had disputes, especially regarding the building’s design and what was being built. This dispute resulted in the removal of James’ name from the cornerstone of the courthouse when it was completed in 1892.
The courthouse has a Richardsonian Romanesque style, a popular architectural movement during the late 19th century. This style often includes European elements of the 11th and 12th centuries, such as a clock tower, turrets, as well as a stone gargoyle. The primary construction material that was used to build the courthouse was called Pecos red sandstone, which was highlighted with blue granite. The structure has eight round turrets that stood 118 feet tall and a central clock tower that is about 205 feet.
The original plan included two libraries, six courtrooms, twenty-nine county offices, two passenger elevators, and ten restrooms. The building’s structural framework was considered fireproof because it was made of cast iron. The courthouse survived its original state for less than 20 years since it has been constructed. The courthouse had a central clock tower that featured four illuminated glass dials and is over nine feet in diameter. However, in 1919, the bell tower and the clock was removed because of its instability. Even if the structure still possessed its beauty, its design suffered because of the clock tower’s absence.
From 1892 to 1967, the courthouse had Lunettes or vivid stained glass windows. It also had a grand staircase that remained until the early 19th century. In 1920, the said staircase was removed to make room for more offices. The “Old Red” also had four terra cotta figures called acroteria that look like wyverns. All of them are placed on top of the building, and the two of them were removed reconstructed in 1967 as a part of the restoration process.
In 1967, county business started to outgrow the Old Red Courthouse, and the completion of the Dallas County Criminal Courts and Records building resulted in the remodeling of the structure as the State Department of Public Welfare. Citizens and historians restored and revived the historic courthouse over the years and into the 21st century.
Today, the courthouse is now known as the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture. The structure is now dedicated to educate and inspire visitors about the political, economic, cultural, and social history of Dallas County. It serves as one of the symbols of Dallas’s heritage. You can now tour and see special exhibits, historical artifacts, four mini theaters, as well as an educational learning center. This place is not only for students. It is also simulating for tourists and visitors that want to learn about the rich history of Dallas County.