La Grange: Fayette County Courthouse & Old County Jail

Anchoring the town square, the restored historic Fayette County courthouse is a must-see for any visitor to La Grange.

Fayette County Court House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fayette County Court House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The historic Oak on the north side of square has been muster point for men in six conflicts.

San Antonio architect J. Riely Gordon designed the Fayette County courthouse, as well as 13 other Texas county courthouses, in addition to the state capitol in Arizona.

On April 9, 1891, the cornerstone for the fourth and current Fayette County Courthouse was laid by the local Masonic Lodge. A celebration with dining and dancing, attended by about 2,000 people, went on into the early hours of the next day.

The three-story building is a masonry and stone Romanesque Revival structure with a clock tower rising over the main entrance.

The structure is 88 feet by 109 feet, the tower rises 100 feet from the ground.

All offices and the courtroom are arranged around a 30-foot by 30-foot square central courtyard. The exterior walls are built of Belton white limestone, complemented with blue sandstone quarried at the nearby Fayette County community of Muldoon. Red Pecos sandstone stringcourses (decorative horizontal moldings) and pink Burnet granite columns and steps add to the richness of the building.

Fayette County Court House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fayette County Court House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the base of the clock tower on a five-foot by fourteen-foot stone slab a large American eagle is carved.  On the corners of the tower and above the entrances are dragons carved out of the eight ridge points. The roof is covered with Spanish tile made from slate.

The central courtyard, which was closed-in to make space for a vault and more offices in 1949, was reclaimed during the restoration of the courthouse. The courtroom, 85-feet by 42-feet in size, is shaped like a half moon. The gallery can seat 500 people.

The roof is Spanish tile, made out of slate, and has copper valleys. Flag poles project from each of the four corners.

When the Fayette County Commissioners’ Court formally accepted the new building on December 1, 1891, the total cost was $99,407.04.

In late February 1893, the courthouse was lighted with electricity for the first time.

In 1913, the basement and the first floor was flooded with five feet of water.

The Fayette County Courthouse has been festooned in red, white, and blue in celebration of peace and memorial occasions.

The streets outside now are paved and the horse and buggy have given way to cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks.

And its clock tower still displays the correct time.

After a complete restoration, the Fayette County Courthouse was rededicated on June 25, 2005.  It stands as a proud and time-honored symbol of justice in Fayette County.

Old Fayette County Jail

Built in 1883, the Old Fayette County Jail was constructed of native stones hauled by ox wagon from the nearby community of Muldoon to the site.

Reminiscent of a European cathedral, the Victorian Gothic structure originally contained two stories with eight cells on each floor. It contained living quarters for the jailer (who was expected to be on-site all the time), and his family at the front and side of the jail.

Fayette County Court House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fayette County Court House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It also contained offices for the sheriff and deputies. Calabashes or hoosegows, more commonly called drunk tanks, were located on the grounds outside the jail building.

The jail was home to the most famous sheriff of Fayette County, Jim Flournoy, who was sheriff at the time the Chicken Ranch closed. When a modern justice center opened in 1985, the old jail closed, sitting empty until 1995 when interior renovation was completed and it became the home of the La Grange Area Chamber of Commerce.

The building features displays collected from throughout the county and memorabilia of Fayette County law enforcement officers that includes badges, holsters, fire arms, belt buckles, uniforms, locks, and eating utensils used in the jail.

A memorial walkway carved with the names Fayette County families, individuals, businesses and organizations leads from the street to the old jail.

Fayette County Court House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fayette County Court House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located at 171 South Main Street, the Fayette County Old Jail is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There is no admission fee and there are wheel-chair accessible restrooms open to the public.

The Fayette County Jail is open weekdays during regular business hours and there is no admission fee.

Please Note:

This is Part 7 of a 7-Part series on La Grande, Texas

Part 1: Czeching Out La Grange

Part 2: Vitáme Vás: Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center

Part 3: La Grange: We Gotcha Kolache & Texas BBQ

Part 4: Frisch Auf: Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Site

Part 5: La Grange: The Best Little Quilt Museum in Texas

Part 6: La Petite Gourmet Shoppe: The Best Little Kitchen Shop in Texas

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Don’t mess with Texas

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