Bexar County Courtroom (c. 1896)
101 West Nueva Street, San Antonio, Bexar Co.
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, National Register of Historic Places, National Register District
Owner: Architect: Bexar County | Architect: Fisher Heck Architects
Original Designer/Architect: James Riely Gordon
The reclamation of the glorious double-height Bexar County Courtroom from four smaller, single-story courtrooms is the culmination of a fourteen year effort by the Commissioner’s Court to return the space to the intent of the original architect, J. Riley Gordon, while updating it with modern technology to make it functional for the 21st century.
The four rooms were gutted down to the original masonry walls and surviving plaster ceiling and steel-framed, intermediate floor were removed, revealing the raw shell of the original courtroom.
Unfortunately, there are no surviving plans of the original 1896 building. The only photographic evidence was a grainy newspaper photograph of a murder trial in 1914. This photo proved vital in determining the original courtroom configuration, wainscoting details and light fixture locations. Court minutes described a pre-1914 segregated balcony, the reconstruction of which allowed designers to conceal the room’s air conditioning system. Original plaster capitals found in the attic were laser scanned in place to create replicas for the restoration. The capitals and the coffered ceiling were hand-painted using colors identified in a paint analysis.
The dramatic transformation provides Bexar County with a magnificent space that inspires civic pride in a historic public building.