Heritage, 2011, Volume 2 Page: 30
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Symbols of Strength: Cornerstones of Texas Buildings
by Williard B. Robinson
Frequently overlooked as sig-
nificant features, cornerstones
often provide information
about structures and their
mong the interesting and ex-
pressive components of many
public buildings are cornerstones. Fre-
quently overlooked as significant fea-
tures, they often provide information
about structures and their builders. In
many buildings they are symbols of
strength and express the builder's pride in
Customs pertaining to the symbolic use
of cornerstones date back to antiquity.
During ancient times, before construc-
tion became a mathematical science,
they were linked to superstitions and reli-
gious beliefs. Builders placed considerable
faith in the spiritual security provided by
signs, symbols, and ceremonies, which
they hoped would protect their works
from evil forces seeking destruction.
Buildings were manifestations of the hu-
man mastery of invisible forces, and fear
of losing them to the action of nature
gave impetus to the inclination to seek
protection by supernatural powers.
In concept of design and location,
cornerstones generally conformed to
similar patterns throughout the state and
country. Often cut from such elegant ma-
terials as marble, limestone, or granite,
two faces were smoothly finished or pol!
ished. A cavity was cut into the bottom
of the stone to receive a box filled with
memorabilia. The names of important
persons often were carved into the faces.
These might be people associated with
the structure's commemoration or names
of architects and contractors. Dates of
construction also were often incised-
sometime in both anno Domini and the
Masonic date, anno lucis. Symbols in-
tended to communicate some aspect
about the building or its use added char-
acter to many stones.
Beyond symbolic meaning and histori-
cal artifacts, cornerstones also display
beauty, depict building functions, and
communicate special messages. The
A scale appears in the cornerstone of the Leon County Courthouse
justice, expressing the building's purpose.
in Centerville that symbolizes
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In Brownwood a book form cut into the memorial stone in the tower walls of the Main Building of
Howard Payne College reveals the religious focus of the school, a Southern Baptist institution.
cornerstone of the Bell County Court-
house in Belton, a Renaissance Revival
temple, displayed handsome lettering
within a finely carved molding. Located
on the northeast comer of the Texas State
Capitol is a block of polished granite with
a low-relief likeness of the state seal.
Cornerstones also occasionally express
the ego of owners of private buildings. In
Brenham, J. D. Giddings commemorated
the erection of his classically styled house
with an engraved block; later his widow
and daughter recorded their contributions
to the house on the adjacent face of the
30 TEXASHERITAGE I Volume 2 2011
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Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2011, Volume 2, periodical, 2011; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254221/m1/32/: accessed June 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.