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All about Dallas County Courthouse

Dallas County Courthouse was an instant landmark, a reminder of the city's emergence as an economic power. The red granite building cost $2 million (about $54 million today) and was built between 1890 and 1892. A parade and fireworks marked its opening on August 13, 1892. In the early 1900s, it served as a symbol of Dallas' emerging importance in Texas and beyond. As the center of both commerce and law in Dallas County, the courthouse became a hub for the community to come together around civic events – political rallies, even concerts. The courthouse continued to play this role into the mid-20th century. During World War I, soldiers would march down Main Street toward trains that would carry them away from home for months at a time. When they returned victorious, Dallas residents celebrated their return with parades around and through the courthouse's front door. Dallas-Skyline

In August 1890, Dallas County commissioners awarded a construction contract to Wittenberg

The building was designed by Mifflin E. Bell, who served as the Chicago architects' Superintendent of Construction. The Dallas County Courthouse was the first of a new generation of Texas courthouses that were larger and more ornate than earlier buildings. The new courthouse cost $500,000 to build, a sum equal to $13,700,000 in 2019 dollars. Are you traveling with a large group? Consider a charter bus rental, perfect for medium to large sized groups. We service all major events, and common services such as weddings, birthday parties and more.

The red granite building cost $2 million (about $54 million today)

“The red granite building cost $2 million (about $54 million today). The cost of the portion built in 1912 was $500,000 ($13.5 million today). The total cost of the building in gold coins would be more than 25 feet high and that in silver coins would be more than 86 feet high.” Ready more fun? Be sure to check out Schools in Dallas Texas

The courthouse opened August 13, 1892, with a parade and fireworks

When the courthouse opened on August 13, 1892, the public dedication ceremony began at 11 a.m. with a parade through downtown Dallas followed by fireworks in the evening. In addition to speeches, music and singing were provided by four hundred boys and girls of the Dallas Industrial School and by “the famous” Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

  • Two entrances face Main Street on the north-facing block.
  • The south block contains the courtroom, which is currently designated for criminal cases.*

The courthouse was the tallest building in Dallas when it opened

When it was completed in 1892, the courthouse was the tallest building in Dallas. It remained the tallest building in Dallas for over twenty years, outstripping all other buildings including the State Fair of Texas building, the Magnolia Building and the Adolphus Hotel. It was not surpassed in height until 1912 when construction on a new Federal Reserve Bank Building began. It remained as one of only two thirteen-story buildings west of Chicago until 1899. It is said that five million bricks were used to build it, which is true if you include those used for interior walls and some exterior walls; 9 million bricks have been used altogether. The dome was built with brick and then covered with galvanized tin. The original dome had a small skylight in it to allow light into the rotunda area located directly below it on each floor. The ceiling of that area is an ornate stenciled design with gold leaf trim. In 1942, during World War II, there were concerns about German infiltrators possibly flying an aircraft over Dallas and dropping bombs. Blackout curtains were hung from this dome as countermeasures against just such an attack.[4 If you are planning a trip to the Dallas area, with a large group of passengers you can count on a Dallas charter bus to shuttle your group to your desired locations. Enjoy stress free group transportation with a coach bus rental perfect for 45-60 passengers.

The building had several other uses before it became an official county courthouse for good in 1901

It's hard to believe that such a grand building was once used as the temporary city hall of Dallas. Other uses include the YMCA, a concert hall, and even a school! The top floor of the courthouse was even used as a jail. The first floor was used as a stable for horses, and the basement was used as a morgue. The building has been restored twice since its construction in 1892, enough times that it seems like it will now be around forever.

An annex was added in 1914

An annex was added in 1914. It was meant to serve as a county records vault, and it was built to match the original building in style. The annex is located in the rear of the original building.

The Old Red Museum closed for renovations in 2008 to celebrate its 100th anniversary

In 2008, Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture celebrated its 100th anniversary with a facelift. Closed for renovations from January to November 2008, the museum reopened in 2009 as Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture. Now fully operational, the newly renovated museum has been hosting six annual exhibits each year and is home to some of the most important artifacts in Dallas culture and history.

Over the years, four attempts were made to replace Old Red

  • First attempt: In the 1920s, some Dallas County officials thought Old Red was too small and should be demolished. They planned to replace it with a larger building that would include more courtrooms. A bond election for a new county courthouse failed to pass in 1926 and again in 1928.
  • Second attempt: Almost 40 years later, Dallas County officials were still trying to replace Old Red. This time, they tried to get voters to approve a bond election for a new county courthouse during the 1964 general election. The measure was defeated by 80 percent of the voters.
  • Third attempt (and fourth): Two more attempts would be made in the 1990s and another in 2009, but all failed to find enough support from city officials or voters.

While these four efforts were not successful, they did lead to other improvements at Old Red over the years including much-needed renovations and an expansion of the museum space inside its walls.

It is a historic site worth visiting if you ever visit Dallas

  • If you want to learn the history of Dallas and see the architecture, you can tour the courthouse. You will be able to see Old Red, which is a historic museum about Dallas's history. The building also has a historic jail which used to be in use from 1873-1956.

You can also visit the tunnel from the 1912 building that still connects this building with other buildings in downtown Dallas through underground tunnels!! There are free tours of this on Saturdays at 9am, 10am and 11am if you email them ahead of time!

  • You can also visit Cafe on Main where it is located near the courthouse so it makes for an easy lunch date! This cafe serves breakfast and lunch options such as sandwiches and salads that are inexpensive($5-$10) and good!! They serve freshly brewed coffee as well!!
  • After eating at Cafe on Main, you can play on the lawn next to it or even bring lunch with you to enjoy on a nice day! The lawn also makes for a good spot if you want to take pictures with Old Red Museum in the background!!
  • Lastly, there is a gift shop inside Old Red that sells souvenirs such as keychains, magnets, postcards and more! They have tons of gifts that are under $10 so they make great gifts or souvenirs!

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