Changes in Store

         In time, changes would come that would bring an end to that age of innocence. Changes would be in store for the courthouse too.

In 1935, efforts to increase the size of the 1888-89 Wharton County Courthouse resulted in changes that altered the building dramatically. Elements essential to the Victorian courthouse, designed by E.T. Heiner, such as its Mansard roofs and clock tower were removed and replaced with flat roofs.

Its exterior brick and limestone walls were stuccoed over, making them match the one-story additions built on the north and south sides of the building. Also, the ceiling of the centrally located courtroom, originally two-stories tall, was lowered to provide additional offices on the third floor.

The resulting changes transformed the building into a more moderne appearance that lacked many of the elements of the original design.

People sorely missed the courthouse bell and the original courthouse clocks, most likely manufactured by The Seth Thomas Clock Co.

On March 8, 1935, in reference to the changes, the Wharton Spectator published:

“It’s not the same Wharton anymore. The old courthouse clock, the one which told a different story on each side of the building and none of which was right, is gone. “Business men who have been accustomed to going by ‘courthouse time’ have been forced to buy dollar watches and many a housewife in the city who relied on the old timepiece has had to purchase an alarm clock.

“Workmen engaged on the remodeling of the Wharton County court house tore down the clock tower Monday of this week and it is doubtful if ever there was anything in Wharton that has been more greatly missed.

“Not that anyone ever believed that the court house clock was ever right. It was the sort of clock that gave a different time on every side; but right or wrong, it was something the people of Wharton grew accustomed to having; and now that it is gone forever, consternation reigns.”

Changes also were in store for the 1888 Wharton County Jail, which also was designed by Heiner.

A 40-foot addition was built on the Victorian building, and the original cornice gables and sloping roofs were removed and replaced with a flat roof. The solid brick walls were stuccoed to match the new addition, resulting in the more Moderne style we know today.

In 1949, efforts to further increase the size of the courthouse resulted in additional one-story wings on the east and west sides, and an elevator was added.

As a result of the changes made in 1935 and 1949, the overall appearance of the courthouse was greatly changed. Instead of being Victorian, with Mansard roofs and clock tower, it has become more representative of Art Deco or Moderne Style. And sometimes, it’s just referred to as denatured.