OLD BLANCO COURTHOUSE
The square in Blanco, Texas is dominated by a two-story limestone building. This magnificent structure was designed in the "Second Empire" style by a young
architect - F. E. Ruffini - and was built in 1885 as the Blanco County Courthouse. The new Courthouse was the pride of the growing town. However, it served the role of courthouse for only four years. When Kendall County was formed, the town of Blanco was left on the southern edge of Blanco County. State law required the county seat to be no more than a day's horse ride from any area of the county. A special ballot vote moved the county seat from Blanco to Johnson City in 1890.
From that time on, the Old Blanco County Courthouse has had a checkered history. It has served as a bank and a school. Operas and silent movies were presented in the grand upstairs courtroom. For several decades the building was home to the Hospital in the Hills, birthplace of over 1000 babies.
The Texas Historical Commission recognized the Old Blanco County Courthouse as a historic site in 1972. By the 1980's, however, the building for the most part stood silent and neglected. In 1986 the new owner of a local ranch bought the Courthouse, intending to dismantle it stone by stone and move it to his new ranch to be his residence.
When the story broke a group of the greatly alarmed citizens of Blanco organized to save the community's cherished architectural centerpiece. The Old Blanco County Courthouse Preservation Society was formed and chartered that same year to raise funds for purchase and restoration of the grand Old Blanco County Courthouse. The process started when the enthusiasm of the organizers caught fire in the community and resulted in agreement on a contract with the owner for purchase of the Courthouse and grounds. After years of fund raising the purchase was completed in 1991.
Many additional years of local fund raising, grants and loans resulted in restoration and rededication of The Old Blanco County Courthouse on May 1, 1998, with a ribbon cutting and a speech by then-Governor, George W. Bush. In May 1999, OBCCPS received the Mary Moody Northern Award for the restoration work completed on the Old Courthouse.
The Old Courthouse now rents office space to local businesses and professionals, hosts Blanco City Council meetings, sponsors a visitor center for the community, as well as hosts Blanco Market Day, the third Saturday of each month, April through November. The upstairs courtroom is available for group events, such as weddings, club meetings, or parties. Anyone interested in rentals may contact (830) 833-2211. The rentals provide funds for day-to-day operating expenses while fundraising activities such as the Annual OBCCPS Gala are held to repay remaining debt from Phase I of the restoration. Additional interior restoration (Phase 2) and landscaping plans remain to be completed.
Donations to support future restoration and landscaping projects may be mailed to:
OBCCPS, PO Box 302, Blanco, TX 78606.
The Visitor Center in the courthouse lobby is open Monday through Saturday
from 10 AM to 2 PM.
by Marian Noonan, © 2003
Travel at VisitWimberley.com