The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002 Page: 168
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Waxahachie received the most votes, followed by Coryell County's 1897 court-
house in Gatesville. Even buildings at the end of this list, Fort Bend County's 1908
classic in Richmond and Tom Green County's 1928 landmark in San Angelo are
impressive examples, proving that no losers occupy this exclusive group.
Veselka's work on courthouse squares falls at the opposite end from Morgan's
artwork in a spectrum of academic depth. This book is not for the faint of heart,
nor for the casual courthouse follower. But this handy paperback is well-orga-
nized and indexed, so it might find itself on your traveling dashboard to explain
the common or the odd positioning of courthouses you know or encounter. The
author and this topic comprised one of the first doctoral efforts under cultural
geographer and Walter Webb-chair Terry Jordan at the University of Texas at
Austin. Veselka launched his studies from obscure prior analysis and statistical
identifications published in 1976 by UT's Bureau of Business Research in its
classic Atlas of Texas, which included a chart of "Traditional Courthouse Squares
in County Seat Towns."
Veselka took the common Shelbyville square, based on the Tennessee proto-
type that fronts four commercial blocks upon the central courthouse, and great-
ly expanded the examination. In addition to the Shelbyville, Harrisonburg,
Lancaster, Two-Block, and Four-Block types identified by earlier scholars,
Veselka shows that Guadalupe County's square in Seguin and Bexar County's
courthouse in San Antonio, and many others, face open plazas as "squares
derived from Spanish precedents." Hartley County's square in Channing and
Kenedy County's square in Sarita, plus many, many others, feature street pat-
terns forever aligned by their origins as "railroad-influenced" townscapes.
If you're collecting courthouse literature, these latest volumes join a handful
of classic publications that help round out the story. The first popular book,
Clark Coursey's Courthouses of Texas (Brownwood: Banner Print, 1962) sprang
from a survey of county clerks and a series in County Progress magazine, setting
the pattern for future studies. June Welch and photographer Larry Nance spent
thirteen weekends traveling sixteen thousand miles to produce the still-useful
The Texas Courthouse (Dallas: GLA Press, 1971), later reprinted as Welch's solo
effort The Texas Courthouse Revisited (Dallas: GLA Press, 1984).
The late Will Robinson elevated courthouses to an art form and undertook a
series of more pleasing historical and architectural volumes in his Texas Public
Buzldzngs of the Nineteenth Century (Austin: Amon Carter Museum of Western Art
and University of Texas Press, 1974), Gone from Texas: Our Lost Architectural
Hentage (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1981), and The People's
Architecture: Texas Courthouses, Jails, and Municipal Buzldings (Austin: Texas State
Historical Association, 1983). Only courthouse-counter Dr. Mavis P. Kelsey Sr.,
joined by researcher Donald H. Dyal, have attempted a comprehensive travel-
ogue in recent years with their The Courthouses of Texas (College Station: Texas
A&M University Press, 1993).
Neither Morgan nor Veselka offer much explanation about how Texans col-
lected so many stunning courthouses, built of so many materials, in such far-flung
places, in a relatively short period of time. With state government's current $1oo
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/m1/176/: accessed December 15, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.