Illustration courtesy of The Old Jail Art Center, Albany, Texas
During the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the growth of Texas led to the organization of many new counties, particularly in the western part of the state as settlers moved in that direction. As the population in an area increased to the point that local government was required and as the citizens could afford to pay for it, a county was organized. Frequently, conflicts developed between neighboring towns as they sought to decide which would become the county seat and, eventually, the home of the courthouse that would follow.  As the commissioners and other county officials were elected, temporary quarters were set up in existing buildings. But the need for a more permanent solution soon became apparent and the commissioners were frequently quick to build the finest courthouse the county could afford - and perhaps a little more than they could afford if there was a neighboring county to be outdone. The courthouse became the center of activity and the building was usually the largest structure in the county. It was a symbol of status and a source of pride for the townspeople.
New counties, new courthouses to replace smaller outgrown facilities and sometimes, to replace another courthouse that had been lost to fire, were all reasons for the surge of courthouse construction that took place in the 1880's and 1890's. Several architects in the state were very active in courthouse designs. Among them were Alfred Giles of San Antonio, J. J. Kane of Ft. Worth, E. F. Ruffini of Austin, and Nicholas J. Clayton of Galveston who was greatly responsible for the magnificent architectural character of that city. The most prolific designers of courthouses though were Flanders, William C. Dodson of Waco and J. Riley Gordon of San Antonio. Gordon was a controversial architect but was a man of great talent nonetheless. A number of his courthouses, most built in the 1890's, are still in use today. These include buildings in Wise County, 1895; Erath County, 1891; Fayette County, 1890; Gonzales County, 1895; Harrison County, 1897, Lee County, 1898 and, his most popular courthouse, Ellis County built in 1892. Gordon specified granite as the stone to be used in his buildings. They were more expensive than those built of local native stone but they were of better quality and were more durable.
Dodson and Flanders built most of their courthouses in the 1880's and most were built of native stone quarried somewhere near the construction site. Dodson's extant courthouses include those in Lampasas County, 1882; Parker County, 1884; Hood County, 1890 and Denton County, 1895.  His courthouse in Hill County burned in January, 1993. However, the exterior walls remained standing and the courthouse was rebuilt. Although the works of both architects are similar in mass and form, Dodson tended to build in the Second Empire Style while Flanders favored the Italianate Style.  Both used extensive exterior ornamentation to complete their designs.
Flanders built as many as fifteen courthouses in Texas and possibly as many as eighteen.  In 1885, during testimony                  presented during litigation regarding the Shackleford County courthouse in Albany, Flanders is quoted as saying, "I have made plans for ten courthouses in Texas; three I am on now." Six of these are:

1) Dallas County Courthouse             
2) Nolan County Courthouse             
3) Eastland County Courthouse              
4) Rockwall County Courthouse              
5) Stephens County Courthouse              
6) Shackleford County Courthouse

The seventh is still unidentified. Of the courthouses he referred to when he said, "three I am on now", two of these are:

1) Baylor County Courthouse              
2) Jack County Courthouse
3) Still unidentified  (Was he counting Hardeman County Courthouse?)

In an interview in 1925, when he was seventy-six, Flanders said (referring to the counties of west Texas), "I built fifteen courthouses out that way." The other JEF courthouses that have been identified are:

1) Potter County Courthouse
2) Wilbarger County Courthouses            
3) Navarro County Courthouses
If the "fifteen courthouses out that way" actually refers to his total number of courthouses, the eleven listed buildings falls four short.  However, if he was literally referring to just his west Texas courthouses, then three of those listed (Dallas, Rockwall and Navarro) must be eliminated from the list, leaving seven unidentified west Texas courthouses designed by Flanders.
JEF also had two known unsuccessful submittals to courthouse design competitions. One of these was for the Ellis County courthouse, although records indicate that his design was initially accepted. A Newspaper ad from May, 1886 advertised for bids for construction of a courthouse in Waxahachie and indicated that the plans were available at the office of the architect, J. E. Flanders in Dallas.  However, Ellis County did not build another courthouse until six years later when Gordon's extant building was constructed.  The second unsuccessful submittal came in 1893 when Flanders presented a design in response to the solicitations of the Tarrant County commissioner court.  The competition was won by Gunn & Curtis, Architects, who designed the extant Renaissance Revival building.
An additional courthouse design was accepted by the commissioner court of Hardeman County but the building was not constructed. In 1886, Hardeman County, was planning a courthouse, but with a bit of contrivance. Two years earlier, the town of Margaret had been selected as the county seat of Hardeman, but not without opposition from the town of Quanah. In early 1886, rumors were heard that the Ft. Worth and Denver Railroad planned to extend a line from Ft. Worth to Quanah. The citizens of Margaret were provoked at the news and decided to solidify their position as county seat by erecting a costly courthouse and they immediately budgeted $40,000 for the project. The meeting deciding this was on February 11, 1886 and a week later, plans submitted by JEF were accepted and the court began advertising for bids to construct the building. When word reached Quanah, the townspeople were literally up in arms and confronted the commissioners at Margaret. On April 7, the court met and formally rescinded the order to build the courthouse. At the same time, they ordered that Flanders receive his fee for the plans and specifications. It was not until 1890 that Quanah became the county seat
Many of Flanders' courthouses were based on variations of the cross corridor plan. The ground floor was bisected by hallways in both directions, dividing the building into quadrants with offices in each of the four quadrants.  Each hallway terminated at an exterior door giving access to the building from all four sides.  The courtroom was on the second floor reached by stairways on the two sides and flanked by two offices on each side.  The height of the courtroom extended to the ceiling of the third floor which also contained additional offices above those on the second floor
It was Dallas's fifth courthouse and was built from the ruins of the previous building, as part of the walls were still standing.  It is the only courthouse JEF designed in the Second Empire style and it was built of white limestone quarried in nearby White Rock Creek.  The building measured approximately 75 feet by 100 feet and was situated between Main Street on the north and Commerce Street on the south and between South Houston Street bordering on the west and South Jefferson Street on the east.  This courthouse, like many others by JEF, was built on the cross corridor concept with offices in the first floor quadrants and the courtroom itself on the second floor. The Dallas County courthouse was built towards the end of the popularity of the Second Empire style which began in the mid-1850's, lasting to the mid-1880's. Its' use in public building diminished sooner, becoming less in favor in the 1870's. The style was seldom used in the south, making the Dallas courthouse something of a rarity.  An unusual feature of the building is the convex mansard roof which is repeated above the slight central projections on the two sides and again on the clock tower.  Most mansard roofs were convex or "S" shaped.  Elaborations of the clock tower include four simple columns, one on each corner, which support a narrow entablature. The building which was thought to be fireproof, burned ten years later in 1890. It was replaced by the extant "Old Red" courthouse. "Old Red" was designed by Kusener & Orlopp of Little Rock, Arkansas and was built by R. L. James. The cornerstone was laid on November 17, 1890 but by July of the following year, Mr. James was relieved of his duties. Flanders and the local contractor Theodore Beilharz were hired as "experts" to evaluate the progress of the building. After several days of secret hearings and a lengthy written report by Flanders and Beilharz,  Orlopp was retained to finish the job.
Dallas, Texas
A fancy cupola balanced the two front corners and a clock tower was on the high point of the roof. The red sandstone blocks were rusticated and quoins extended to the height of the belt course at the top of the first floor. Another belt course separated the second and third floors. Keystone architraves of the same material surrounded each window and rested on the belt course below it. Most nineteenth century courthouses occupied a position in the center of a square. Each side faced a street and therefore needed to present a "front" on all four sides of the building. This was true in most of the courthouses later designed by Flanders. However, in Breckenridge, the building was situated on the corner of a square and the result was a building with an obvious front and back. The main entrance projected from the facade of the building and was the width of the second floor court room which delineated this feature. On the first floor the main entry was elaborated by the archway. Above that, four windows opened into the courtroom and extended to the height of the third floor ceiling. This  was capped by a pediment and on the peak of the pediment rested the statue of 'Justice'. 
Breckenridge, Texas
The oil boom of the twenties swelled the population of the town of Breckenridge and brought prosperity to many of its citizens. In 1926, the county built a new courthouse and a year later, the old building was razed. The elaborate archway, designed by JEF's brother Charles Lorenzo Flanders, inspired by a book he was reading at the time on Egyptian architecture was left standing as a tribute to the early citizens of the town. In 1975 a Texas Historical Marker was placed on the site.  Photo by Jim Willis

Sweetwater, Texas
Albany, Texas
On March 14, 1883, the commissioners court accepted JEF's plans for the design of their new courthouse. The agreement stated that the cost of the building would not exceed $27,000 and that JEF would be paid a fee of $1250. JEF also agreed to make ten trips to inspect the progress of the construction of the building. Flanders' original pen and ink drawings on linen paper still survive.  The contract for the construction of the building was awarded to C. Harris & Co., who submitted the low bid of $27,900. A man of many trades, Edgar Rye, was appointed as the building's superintendent of construction. Scottish stonecutters and masons were employed for the job (at salaries of $4.50 per day) and the work was soon underway. A strike interrupted the construction in August when the workers complained that they were not being paid regularly. This was soon resolved and construction resumed. The stone foreman listed his workforce at the time as "10 cutters, 4 masons and 6 laborers at work" and he hoped to have 6 more cutters the following week. There were three carpenters then and a stone supplier had fourteen men and six teams "'gettin' out and hauling stone". By the following April, a rift had developed between Flanders and Rye and JEF was notified to appear before the commissioners court. Four days later, at JEF's recommendation, Mr. Rye's employment was terminated. The records do not indicate why. By November, 1884, the building was completed but at a cost well in excess of the original bid - over $49,000.  A suit was filed by the contractor to collect part of this cost and a countersuit was filed by the county.  Litigation followed and an account of this trial written in 1956 by Joe Blanton, an Albany architect, states:
"During the litigation, the old antagonism between Flanders, the architect, and Rye, the building superintendent he had caused to be fired, flared up again. On being asked in a cross-interrogatory if an architect was different from a carpenter or a stone mason, Flanders did not refrain from taking an unsubtle dig at Rye. His reply was, 'Yes there is a difference between an architect and a carpenter, or a stone mason, or (referring to many of Rye's previous occupations) a sign painter, or a wood engraver, or a lawyer, or a combination of all of these.

The architect was not a friendly witness to the County. On being asked to explain the high cost of the Shackleford County building, he testified, 'It was conducted in an extravagant manner, because of the impractical work that was done and the poor handling of the work and men. I was the architect of the Baylor County Courthouse, a larger and finer building, built and completed for $40,5000, 59 miles off the railroad, which makes it more expensive. Also, I am architect for a larger and finer courthouse being built for Jack County at a cost of $38,000, 40 miles off the railroad. I have made plans for and superintended
The Shackleford County Courthouse, which rests on its' foundation of "a uniform depth of 2 ft. below grade" supporting four foot thick walls is now well into its' second century of service to the county.
The interiors of many of these early twentieth century buildings responded to another stimulus, Louis Henry Sullivan.  Sullivan was a Chicago architect who received his training at M.I.T. and at the E'cole des Beaux Arts in Paris. His architecture and ornamentation design talents complimented the engineering genius of his partner Dankmar Adler.  The two were responsible for many new approaches to building design and construction and were also responsible for the much of the early education of Frank Lloyd Wright. Their organization was one of the major influences of what became known as the Chicago school of architecture and their works were widely featured in the profession's literature of the time.  Flanders used Sullivanesque ornamentation in the interior of the Navarro County Courthouse.
FLANDERS' LONGITUDIONAL SECTION OF THE EXTANT SHACKLEFORD COUNTY COURTOUSE in Albany, Texas.  The original drawings are in the Old Jail Art Center.

Illustration courtesy of The Old Jail Art Center, Albany, Texas
Baylor County Courthouse was referred to by JEF in his testimony given during the Shackleford hearings.  He referred to the building as "larger and finer" than Shackleford and he gave its value as $40,500. The building was completed in 1884 and was constructed of native, rusticated stone. Baylor and Eastland courthouses were built at the same time and the floor plans appear to be virtually identical. The front elevation of Baylor, however, exhibited an emphasis on the vertical and the elaborations of the Italianate cornice were repeated in the belt course above the first floor.  The height of the clock tower, from the cornice line to the tip of the roof of its ornate cupola was nearly as great as the height of the building itself. This feature was deemed unsatisfactory in later years, either by reason of structural integrity or esthetics, and was replaced by a dome in 1912. the building stood until 1967 when it was razed to build a new courthouse.
Seymour, Texas
In 1881, the town of Eastland won a narrow victory, 354 to 324 votes, over the town of Cisco, ending a long debate as to which of the two would be the county seat of Eastland County. The commissioners court immediately made plans for a courthouse. Flanders was called upon for the design and the contractors Lance and McEashen, who entered a bid of $34,998, were soon engaged to construct the building. Work began on the three story, native stone building in 1883.  However, difficulties soon arose and the commissioners court took charge of the project. The building was completed the following year, 1884, at a cost of $57,000. This unusual building exhibits a unity of design lacking in some other JEF courthouses. It combined rusticated native stone with an Italianate cornice and the roof of the structure exhibited an oriental influence that is unlike any other JEF courthouse.  The cross corridor design was again used here with the court room occupying the central portion of the second and third floors, flanked by offices on both sides. The building burned during the early morning hours of November 26, 1896.
Eastland, Texas
Jack County Courthouse was also referenced in JEF's testimony at the Shackleford hearings and was also indicated to be a "larger and finer" building. Its cost was $38,000. The native stone for this structure came from the local Jacksboro quarries.  The building was completed in 1885 and served the citizens of Jack County until it was razed in 1938 when a WPA grant made it possible to build a new courthouse. The building was carefully disassembled and the townspeople gathered for a last photograph after the windows and roof had been removed. Materials from the building were used to construct a new Jacksboro City Hall across the street from the courthouse. A drawing of the courthouse reproduced in the July 23, 1988 Jack County Herald shoes Flanders name as the architect.
Jacksboro, Texas
On February 16, 1886, the Commissioners Court of Wilbarger County advertised for architects to submit plans for a brick courthouse to cost not more than $35,000.  During a special sessions held on March 8th, JEF's plans were adopted.  By the end of April, the contract had been let. At that time, JEF received a $600 payment on his fee. He received the balance of his fee, another $600 in December, apparently when the building was completed. The large tower was destroyed by a tornado in the early 1900's and a more modest version was built to replace it. The building was finally razed in 1928 to build a larger courthouse.

Wilbarger County Courthouse was the last of Flanders's nineteenth century courthouses and it was his first opportunity to design a brick courthouse. He obviously enjoyed the change of materials and designed a completely different building, using the brick to its' full advantage in providing architectural details not feasible with cut native stone construction.
Vernon, Texas
Flanders had two opportunities to design twentieth century courthouses. These came at the same time, in 1904, and JEF responded with two neo-classical styles.  The first of these was the Navarro County Courthouse in Corsicana which is one of the two extant Flanders courthouses, the other being the 1885 Shackleford County Courthouse in Albany. There is a marked difference in the style of these two courthouses constructed twenty years apart.  The 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair greatly influenced the architecture of public buildings in the early twentieth century.  Many of the structures at this exposition were designed in the Classical Revival style and suddenly the Victorian and Italianate styles that had dominated the previous thirty to forty years lost their popularity and appeal.  Roman and Greek columns and pediments replaced Italianate cornices and Victorian cupolas in courthouse designs.
Corsicana, Texas
At the turn of the century, Corsicana was in the middle of an oil boom. This provided the money and the impetus to replace their deteriorating 1881 courthouse. This building, designed by architect E. F. Russini, was too small for the needs of the county and it had also fallen victim to the shifting Corsicana soil.  JEF was retained in 1904 to design the new courthouse which was to be much larger than any of his previous "temples of justice" and the county was prepared to pay in excess of $125,000 for the building. Flanders designed an imposing Beaux Arts structure and the contract was awarded to General Supply and Construction Company of Fort Worth who submitted the low bid of $128,900. The building contained forty rooms and measured 160 feet by 110 feet.  The three story structure is built of gray bricks and stonework of pink granite from Burnet County.  The building has a basement and is topped by a red tile roof. The Masons, in an unusual move, laid two cornerstones on November 20, 1905 as the building neared completion. Courthouse personnel, anxious to leave their temporary building to occupy the new structure began moving in
In 1964, the building was remodeled.  Air conditioning, central heating and additional elevators were installed.  In 1983, another evaluation and proposal for the building was made by architects Simons-Burch-Clark of Tyler, Texas. During this study, the architects discovered Flanders original plans. When Flanders drew the plans for Shackleford County Courthouse, the plans were complete in eight pages. The Navarro County Courthouse required twenty-one pages of drawings. These are sill in the possession of the county and are stored in the building.
In 1904, the commissioners of Potter County recommended the construction of a new courthouse.  This course of action was not readily agreed to by all the citizenry but after a long and heated battle, the proponents won out and it was decided by popular vote to proceed with the project.  $50,000 in 40 year bonds were issued to finance the building.  This was JEF's last courthouse.

Flanders designed a three story neo-classical building 100 ft. by 65 ft., built of native stone quarried nearby.  The exterior exhibited bands of alternating colored stone throughout the height of the structure.  Four recessed Ionic columns marked the entry on the north side of the building while another four columns supported a classical entablature and pediment on both ends of the building. An eclectic dome topped by a statue of justice crowned the building.  It was completed in April, 1906.  In 1915, the dome was removed and a fourth story was added.  Fifteen years later, the building was replaced with the extant Art Deco building.
Amarillo, Texas

Flanders is known to have designed at least five jails.  During the construction of the Potter County Courthouse in 1904 through 1906, a jail was also built, located sixty feet south of the courthouse.  The two story jail was built with the same alternating colored bands of stonework although the finish was rusticated. The walls were twenty-one inches thick. The native sandstone was quarried a few miles west of Amarillo.

In a list of references printed in 1883, Flanders listed a jail for Kaufman County. No information on this building has been found. Texas Historical Commission records exist for jails in Jack County (1885, the same year as his courthouse there), Haskell County (1891) and Callahan County (1891).  He was also the supervising architect for J. Riley Gordon's Callahan County courthouse in 1900.

There are also accounts of Flanders' designs for records buildings for Dallas county and Ellis county, as well as the records building for Rockwall county described in the earlier account of the Rockwall county courthouse.

In 1884, a records building for Dallas county was built on the northwest corner of the courthouse square at the intersection of Jefferson and Commerce streets.  The building, connected to the courthouse by an iron walkway, was constructed to provide safekeeping for the county records after the 1880 fire threatened their destruction.  The records building was approximately 60 ft. x 40 ft. in size and was described as being a "squat two-story stone edifice" with "walls of stone, two feet thick, the floors of cement; there is not so much as a single splinter of wood or other combustible material in the building".

In April, 1886, Ellis county advertised for bids from contractors for a Records a building. The ad said that plans were available at the office of the architect, J.E. Flanders, in Dallas. The following month, a contract for the construction was awarded to a Dallas builder, O K. Harry, who submitted a bid of $15,950.

JEF probably designed other jails and records buildings in conjunction with the courthouses he designed. However, research has not yet confirmed any.

Illustrations courtesy of The Old Jail Art Center, Albany, Texas
In 1880, the architect W. H. Wilson was a new arrival in Dallas. He worked alone except for the brief partnership in 1884-1885 of Wilson & Tozer.  However, the city records list him as a partner of Flanders in the rebuilding of the recently burned courthouse. The records concerning this courthouse ordered "that Flanders and Wilson be employed as architects and superintendents for the rebuilding and repairing of the courthouse for the sum of 2% on the contract price to wit $24,000 amounting to four hundred and eighty dollars to be paid upon completion of the building". A judicious agreement on the part of both parties considering the uncertainties encountered in the construction of courthouses at the time, Flanders and Wilson stating their fee in terms of a percentage and the city retaining the two as both architects and superintendents.  The city did however consent to an advancement of approximately half of the fee.
In 1882, the city of Breckenridge, recently named as the county seat of Stephens County, made plans for the construction of an "imposing courthouse" and JEF'S design for the building was selected. His brother, Charles Lorenzo Flanders, accompanied JEF to Breckenridge and assisted with the design.  Charles later made Breckenridge his home. A local resident named Rosencrest, a Swedish immigrant and respected builder and stone mason, was hired to build the structure. The building was to be built of red sand stone and stand three stories high. It would have great vaulted ceilings and five cupolas on the roof. It was to be a beautiful building, built at a cost of $29,700 and would be paid for by taxes levied on all the property in the county. The new courthouse was completed in 1883. It stood on the southeast corner of the square and was graced with a tall statue of a woman holding the scales of justice.
The commissioners of Nolan County employed Flanders to design their courthouse in 1882.  His Victorian Italianate plan was accepted and J. M. Archer of Ft. Worth, and JEF's first partner when he arrived in Dallas, was hired as the contractor.  Native stone was cut from property west of the town but almost immediately, financing problems arose. As an economic measure the commissioners ordered that a gypsum product, plaster-of-paris, manufactured locally by two Frenchmen,  Max Guillot and Emil Shiflett who operated a gypsum plant west of Sweetwater, be substituted for the mortar called  for in the specifications.  Construction was slow and difficult and problems began to appear.  But to most citizens, the construction progressed satisfactorily and in 1883 the building was completed and occupied. However, the plaster-of-paris degraded quickly and in 1885 the north wall of the building collapsed.  The structure had to be abandoned. For several years, court was held in an annex to the jail and it was not until 1891 that the court finally stated the fact that "our courthouse on the public square at the county seat of Nolan County, having fallen down, and there being no place for the safe keeping and preservation of the Records of the County and that it is necessary and Expedient that Said Court House be rebuilt in the center of said Courthouse where the Said old building now stands". The courthouse was rebuilt from stones salvaged from the first building and it served the citizens of the county until 1918.
James Edward Flanders
Dallas' First Architect
HARDEMAN COUNTY'S PAYMENT TO JEF - For plans for a courthouse that was never constructed. The county still has the original check (dated April 9, 1886.
Copy of check courtesy of Hardeman County
A COURT HOUSE DESIGN - 1893 Probably Flanders' unsuccessful submittal in the competition for the Tarrant County Courthouse.
American Institute of Architects Archives, Washington D.C.
Illustration courtesy of the Swenson Memorial Museum of Stephens County
First courthouse in Texas to be rededicated under the direction of the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program
TWC Preservation Architects
More photos
All photos by Jim Willis
Photograph from the Collection of the Dallas/Texas  History Archives,
Dallas Public Library
Photograph from the Collection of the Dallas/Texas  History Archives, Dallas Public Library, Louise Kahn files
All photographs by Jim Willis
Postcard photograph, publisher unknown
Photograph courtesy of Centennial Memorial Library Archives, Eastland., Texas
Photograph courtesy of Jack County Herald, Jacksboro, Texas
Copy of Flanders drawing courtesy of Navarro County Commissioners Court
Postcard illustration