The building now referred to as “Old Red” served as the Dallas County Courthouse from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s. It was completed in 1892. The first contracts were let around 1890. Robert L. James secured the bid of $365,000 to be the contractor. The original news release indicated that it was to be built of Little Rock granite and that construction would take two years.
While living in Waco, I would occasionally drive past the old McLennan County courthouse. I had seen the feature film Bonnie and Clyde when it was on its first run. However, I assumed that both Bonnie and Clyde had escaped from the jail at the McLennan County Courthouse in the midst of their short crime spree. Years later I learned the details about how Bonnie had helped Clyde and two others escape.
Wise County is located in North Texas. While most counties are named for people with a more direct connection to the history of Texas, Wise County is named for Virginia Governor Henry Wise. The county was carved out of nearby Cooke County in 1856.
James Riely Gordon was a practicing architect during what has been called the Golden Age of Texas Courthouses, the 1880s and 1890s. By then, almost all of the 254 Texas counties now in existence had been established. The Texas legislature allowed counties to issue bonds for courthouse construction and many counties did, leading to construction projects all over the state.
Pictured: Ellis County Courthouse in Waxahachie (2015)