“The Henderson County Courthouse has stood the test of time and continues to be a beautiful landmark in the center of our county. It must have been an incredible sight for citizens in our county when they first saw this magnificent building in the early 1900s.”
Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders
Some 250 residents gathered on the courthouse lawn on May 17 to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Henderson County Courthouse. The full slate of festivities included a choir performance, proclamation reading, remarks by present and former elected officials, unveiling of a special plaque, and burial of the 2014 Time Capsule. As a special treat, the Athens Masonic Lodge, with the assistance of the Grand Lodge of Texas, performed a re-enactment of the leveling of the cornerstone just as it was done 100 years ago.
The county, organized in 1846, was christened in honor of James Pinckney Henderson, first governor of Texas, while the county seat of Athens was named for either Athens, Georgia, or for the ancient Greek city of Athens.
The Henderson County Courthouse was completed in 1913 and accepted by the county on Jan. 2, 1914, when county operations commenced.
The first Athens resident, County Clerk E.J. Thompson, lived in one end of the county’s early log cabin courthouse built in 1850; five years later it was sold and the proceeds given to W. B. Stirman to build a jail. A two-story wooden county courthouse was raised on the public square and completed in 1860, but burned in 1885. Two other courthouses were put to use before the Classical Revival capitol, designed by L.L. Thurman and completed for $133,500. The Henderson County Courthouse was later renovated in 1965, with additional renovations in 1986. While the dome cannot be seen from the front view, it still sits atop the county courthouse.