The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 75, July 1971 - April, 1972 Page: 340
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
enward urge inspired builders dedicated to the Deity to reach grace-
fully into the sky with complex systems of vaulting and flying but-
tresses. Pressure may be considered as form-giving, and tension as form-
orienting. Pressure influences internally the configuration of form;
tension influences externally the manner in which this form is related
to its surroundings-for instance, as in the plan of Washington, D.C.,
where numerous buildings and monuments were oriented in their
environment with respect to visual tensions created by reciprocal vistas.
The form and orientation of 'Texas courthouses similarly answered to
tensions and pressures created by relationships to their sites.
Before analyzing these responses, however, it is necessary to consider
aspects of life that made public squares so important in early Texas
communities. Law required that plazas be provided in towns founded
during the Spanish colonial and Mexican periods. However, the
conditions making a central public space a vital part of the fabric
of communities platted after Texas independence were similar to
those which influenced town planning in other parts of the southern
and eastern United States. To be sure, the public square of the days
of the republic and state was Anglo-American. With immigration it
came to Texas through Tennessee and Kentucky, from Philadelphia."
Several different types of squares were laid out by town builders."
The most basic and frequently used type was simply a block reserved
within a grid of streets, as at Houston, Dallas, Decatur, Waxahachie,
1In the Spanish colonies, "The Royal Ordinances for New Towns . . . ," issued
by Philip II, called for a plaza in proportion to the number of inhabitants and lo-
cated in the center of town. See Zelia Nuttall, "Royal Ordinances Concerning the
Laying Out of New Towns," The Hispanic American Historical Review, IV (Novem-
ber, 1921), 750; Dan Stanislawski, "Early Spanish Town Planning in the New World,"
Geographical Review, XXXVII (January, 1947), 94-105. For an example dealing with
the Spanish settlement at San Antonio, see John W. Reps, Town Planning in Frontier
America (Princeton, 1969), 53.
When Texas was a part of Mexico, the law required that the commissioners of new
towns "designate a square measuring one hundred and twenty varas on each side . ..
to be called the Principal or Constitutional Square" as the central space in town.
See Laws and Decrees of the State of Coahuila and Texas, in Spanish and English ....
trans. by J. P. Kimball (Houston, 1839), 72.
"For the early history of town squares in America, see Carl Feiss, "Early American
Public Squares," in Paul Zucker, Town and Square, from the Agora to the Village Green
(New York, 1959), 237-255. For further developments of public squares, see John W.
Reps, The Making of Urban America: A History of City Planning in the United States
(Princeton, 1965), 99, 111, 128, 172-174, 230-234; Edward T. Price, "The Central
Courthouse Square in the American County Seat," Geographical Review, LVIII (January,
'For illustrations and development of the various types, see Price, "The Central
Courthouse Square," 3o if.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 75, July 1971 - April, 1972, periodical, 1972; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101201/m1/352/: accessed October 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.