The Old Red Museum was once the home of the Dallas County Courthouse. Built in 1892, of granite and red sandstone, the style is Romanesque Revival. The gargoyle-like figures and turrets, give it a very heavy, gothic feel. It should definitely be included in a tour of downtown Dallas architecture and history.
There are over 250 courthouses in Texas, and approximately eighty of them were built before the turn of the century. They offer historical, architectural and civic value, and interest. The Old Red is one of the most beautiful, and one of the oldest. If you love architecture, don’t miss it. Here are some of the highlights of the building from the museum’s website.
The Old Red Museum offers new historical discoveries in abundance – not only in our galleries, but also within the building itself. Original construction of the Old Red Courthouse took place in 1892, undergoing many transformations throughout the years, which ultimately led to the beautiful restoration of today. Authentic features and architectural elements have been uncovered to display a truly magnificent piece of Dallas County history.
Four decorative creatures perch atop the Old Red Museum. These terra cotta figures are acroteria in the shape of wyverns (from the Latin word for “serpent”). These wyverns have two legs, wings and a spiny back. Two of the figures were removed in 1967 and reconstructed as part of the restoration process of the 2000s. The remaining two are original.
The newly restored clock tower stands at 90 feet tall, which is almost half of the entire height of the Old Red Museum. The original clock tower was removed in 1919, and its restoration was completed in 2007. All four clock faces are lit from the inside, making Old Red one of the truly unique sights of the downtown Dallas nighttime skyline.
The Old Red Dallas County Courthouse originally contained six courtrooms. Today, the Hatton W. Sumners Restored Courtroom on the fourth floor of Old Red stands as a testament to the craftsmanship and detail of the 1892 courthouse. Fully restored, it contains an elaborate judge’s bench, jury box and gallery seating.
The Grand Staircase has been completely restored to its original 1892 appearance. Dallas County expanded rapidly throughout the early 19th century, and in 1920 the original staircase was removed in order to make room for additional offices. Today, genuine remnants of the staircase are restored with reconstructed sections to create Old Red’s most impressive physical feature.
More than one hundred vivid stained glass windows, or lunettes (French for “little moon”), originally hung in the upper windows of Old Red. From 1892 through 1967, these lunettes were the highlight of the Dallas County Courthouse. In 1967, during a major renovation of the building, the lunettes were removed. Two original lunettes were recovered during Old Red’s restoration, and lunettes in the Hatton W. Sumners Restored Courtroom have been replaced.
The Texas Historical Commission offers some great information on the history and significance of the courthouses.
The Old Red Museum
100 S. Houston St.
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