THE COURTHOUSES OF CENTRAL TEXAS
By Brantley Hightower
Published in 2015 by University of Texas Press.
Reviewed by Manning Wolfe.
The Courthouses of Central Texas by Brantley Hightower is a beautiful book that proudly portrays the distinctive architecture and history of 50 Central Texas courthouses. It is Volume 20 of the Clifton and Shirley Caldwell Texas Heritage Series by the University of Texas Press. The coffee table book is well worth the $45 price tag for its beautiful hard cover, high-quality paper, 92 color illustrations, and 61 maps; comprising a 192 page nostalgic stroll through Central Texas. I could, and did, look at this book for hours.
The Courthouses of Central Texas, as much a tribute as a survey, not only expresses the importance of the courthouse as the seat of government, but also explains what it represents symbolically for a community. “This remarkable book sensitizes us to what these courthouses have to say,” according to Max Levy in the Foreword. “Through the use of stately architecture and tall, ornate towers and domes, they communicated to the outside world that a community was prosperous and secure,” says Hightower. The author further explains the courthouses’ formal development by placing them in their historical and social context, which tells the story of the power and importance of the courthouses in the history of Texas, as well as their enduring relevance today.
Comparisons of the courthouses represent the historical trends occurring throughout Texas at each particular step in the development of the structures. The buildings are described with information about the dates of construction, the architect involved, and includes a historical photograph and site plan of each current structure and campus. Of particular interest are two- and three-dimensional drawings showing the points of architectural interest as well as the evolution of the facades over the years. These shadowy profiles appear as ghosts of the incarnations of each courthouse.
As a big fan and student of courthouses, especially those in Texas, I post a photograph of a different courthouse each month in my newsletter. This book has taken my understanding to a whole new level with regard to the design and architecture of courthouses and how they influenced and were influenced by the geography surrounding each. I plan to purchase several copies of this book, putting one on my coffee table and keeping the rest for gifts for friends who are attorneys, landmen, history buffs, and real estate types. I’m sure they’ll be treasured.
Manning Wolfe is an author and attorney residing in Austin, Texas. After many years of storytelling, Manning has written a legal thriller series involving a Texas attorney based in Austin. The first in the series, Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs. Boots King was the winner of the 2014 Writer’s League of Texas Manuscript Contest. A graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law, she specializes in business law. Visit her website .