County Seat: Sarita * County Population: 416
The now-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.
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. 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 recreate 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.
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-plus residents.
The economy is supported by ranching, oil and gas production, and hunting. 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 countryside 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, Kenedy County 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, an 825,000-acre spread founded in 1853, sprawls across six Texas counties including much of Kenedy County. The ranch was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961.