Seven years ago County Progress Magazine launched a series dedicated to the restoration and renovation of our county capitols. Titled “Courthouse Trails,” this series recaps the efforts of counties across the Lone Star State who have taken special measures to restore their capitols to their original splendor and/or launch comprehensive renovation projects to ensure safety and workability, culminating in the proud rededication of their courthouses.
Our coverage to date includes:
v March 2003: Ellis, Grimes, Hopkins, Milam and Shelby counties
v August 2003: Erath, Donley, Lampasas, Llano and Shackelford counties
v February 2004: Atascosa, Gray, Goliad, Parker and Red River counties
v September 2004: Hudspeth, Lee, Presidio, Sutton and Val Verde counties
v February 2005: Dimmit, Jeff Davis and Wheeler counties
v September 2005: Archer, Bexar, Denton and Fayette counties
v February 2006: Harrison (exterior completion), Maverick, Rains and Wharton counties
v August 2006: Bee, Lamar, Lavaca, and Nueces counties
v February 2007: Cameron, Cooke, DeWitt and Menard counties
v August 2007: Bosque, Leon and Williamson counties
v February 2008: Johnson County
v August 2008: Dallas County
v August 2009: Harrison County (interior completion)
v February 2010: Kendall and McCulloch counties
v September 2010: Kenedy County
As your courthouse project nears completion, please contact us at Julie@countyprogress.com so we can feature your county is this special section.
Kenedy County Courthouse
The newly restored Kenedy County Courthouse of 1918 was rededicated in a May 2010 celebration following an 18-month project. The courthouse has been in continuous use for 92 years, minus time spent on two restoration efforts including one in 1948 and this latest endeavor.
The Kenedy County capitol, designed in a Texas Renaissance style by H.S. Phelps, of San Antonio, originally served as the Willacy County Courthouse. When Kenedy County was created in 1921, Willacy County was reorganized, and Kenedy County inherited the Sarita courthouse.
Kenedy County self-funded the $4-million courthouse restoration project using TWC Architects, of Austin, as project designer and director, and JC Stoddard Construction Co., of San Antonio, as construction manager.
The building interior was restored to its gold and green color scheme. Paint analysis was conducted to determine the historic colors hidden under layers of paint and varnish. Original carpet pieces were discovered in one of the vaults, which were then used to re-create the design using computer-generated dye patterns.
During the 1930s, the reddish-brown brick courthouse exterior began receiving coatings of white stucco and paint. However, the stucco trapped moisture inside and created mold and rust. In order to remedy the situation, all brick and stone from the exterior of the building was removed and replaced with elements matching the original.
“When you’re used to seeing all the white, the dark brick really jumps out,” said Kenedy County Judge J.A. Garcia. “I think we’ve got a beautiful building that will be an asset to our little town.” H – TWC Architects contributed information to this article.
Located in the southeastern section of South Texas in what is known as “The Wild Horse Desert,” Kenedy County is one of the least-populated counties in Texas, home to some 400 residents.
The area economy is supported by ranching, oil and gas production, and hunting. In fact, visitors frequent the area in search of prized white-tail bucks, the imported Nilgai antelope, bobwhite quail, dove, wild turkey, javelina, and feral hogs. The area is also well known as a haven for bird watchers as it lies on the migratory path of many species.
In late winter and throughout the spring, the area has one of the most colorful landscapes in the Lone Star State, thanks to a special variety of beautiful wildflowers.
Sarita, the county seat, is home to several historic buildings including the remodeled Kenedy Pasture Company building, completed in 1927, which now houses the Kenedy Ranch Museum of South Texas. Visitors are treated to the story of Mifflin Kenedy and his family. Kenedy and his friend and business partner, Richard King, first found wealth as steamboat captains on the Rio Grande. After the Civil War they invested in land including thousands of acres in South Texas. For the next 100 years, the Kenedy name would be significantly involved in every aspect of the economic development of South Texas – ranching, railroads, land development and oil.
King Ranch, located in South Texas between Corpus Christi and Brownsville, is one of the world's largest ranches (larger than Rhode Island) and is the largest ranch in the United States. The 825,000-acre spread, founded in 1853 by Captain Richard King (mentioned above) and Gideon K. Lewis, sprawls across six Texas counties, including much of Kenedy County. The ranch was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961.