The Bexar County Courthouse
A PROUD TRADITION
The Bexar County Courthouse is the largest and oldest continuously operated historic courthouse in Texas. Designed in the distinctive Romanesque Revival style by renowned architect, James Riely Gordon, its cornerstone was laid in 1892 and the grand Courthouse was completed in 1897. A masterpiece of native Texan granite and red sandstone, roofed in distinctive green and red tiles. It was the fifth seat of government in Bexar County, the first four having been ruled by a succession of governments and political entities including Spain, Mexico, The Republic of Texas, The Confederate States of America, and the United States. Each of the four predecessor buildings were located within two blocks of the existing historic courthouse, in the heart of downtown San Antonio.
THE COURTHOUSE OVER THE YEARS
Since its creation as a part of New Spain, Bexar County has been under the political rule of several countries. These layers of historical change have been reflected in the architecture of Bexar County's courthouse. Since 1897, the Courthouse has had four major additions. The first occurred in 1914 and the second was an extensive remodeling and expansion in 1927. Those additions were sufficient to meet the County's space needs until 1963 when an additional 9,000 square feet were added. Finally, the addition built in 1972 added almost 39,000 square feet at the southwest corner of the building. Presently, the total square footage of the Bexar County Courthouse is approximately 300,000.
THE BEXAR COUNTY COURTHOUSE ARCHITECT
J. Riely Gordon (1863 - 1937) was a brillant architect of courthouses throughout the United States. Gordon's specialty was constructing public buildings mainly in the Romanesque Revival style. The prolific Mr. Gordon designed seventy-two courthouses and hundreds of other notable public buildings, including the Arizona State Capitol, during his lifetime. Internationally renowned for his architectural genius, Mr. Gordon served thirteen consecutive terms as the President of the New York Society of Architects.
Many believe the Bexar County Courthouse to be an especially magnificent county courthouse due in part to Mr. Gordon's personal affinity for San Antonio. He moved to Bexar County as a child with his mother and father, a civil engineer. As a young San Antonian architect his first major design job was to supervise the construction of the San Antonio Federal Courthouse & Postoffice in 1869. It is the intent of the Hidalgo Foundation to pay homage to the design integrity of Mr. Gordon with these historical restorations, returning the Courthouse to his intended plan.
Bexar County Courthouse Historic Designations
- National Register of Historic Places
- National Register of Historic Districts
- Recorded by the Historic American Buildings Survey
- Texas Historic Landmark
- Texas State Archaeological Site
- Texas State Archaeological Landmark Site
- Texas Historical Commission Grant Covenant
- National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of "Eleven Most Endangered" Historic Buildings; 1998
- City of San Antonio Main & Military Plazas Historic Districts
- City of San Antonio Historic Exceptional Landmark
Bexar County Courthouse Restoration Awards
- Excellence in Construction Award; Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc.
- Award of Excellence; Texas Construction Magazine
- Mayor´s Choice Award; San Antonio Chapter of The American Institute of Architects
- Texas Downtown Association Award, Short List
- Preservation Award; San Antonio Conservation Society
- Best Use of Public Space; Downtown Alliance/San Antonio
- The Model for the Nation; Courtroom 21 Project of the William & Mary University Law School