County Seat: Paris | County Population: 49,793 (2010 U.S. Census)
The Lamar County Courthouse designed by architects Sanguinet & Staats represents an unusual fusion of Classical Revival with heavy Romanesque details, arches and columns. After a fire destroyed most of downtown Paris in 1916, the damaged 1896 courthouse was de-constructed to provide a foundation and salvage granite for the current 1917 courthouse. The records vault, which pre-dates the 1896 courthouse by seven years, survived the fire and was incorporated into an annex for the 1917 courthouse.
The courthouse was restored in 2005 when non-historic partitions were removed opening the courtroom to its original two-story configuration; the project also included restoring the balcony and the plaster and stencil work throughout the corridors, stairwells and courtroom.
Lamar County was carved from Red River County and organized in 1841 with Lafayette as the inaugural county seat. Mount Vernon was named the county capitol in 1843, and then Paris in 1844.
In her history book, “The Texas Courthouse Revisited,” June Rayfield Welch tells of early county official James L. Long, who “returned from the Civil War minus a leg he lost at Shiloh. He was county judge, district clerk, and county attorney during an era of military titles. In a community awash with captains, majors, and colonels, Long was distinguished by regularly calling himself ‘Private Jim Long.’ ”
Lamar County is home to several famous attractions, including the Eiffel Tower of Paris, Texas, which stands 65 feet tall. The tower, “Texanized” with a cowboy hat in 1998, was the impetus for Paris’ designation as “1995 Best Pit Stop” by the Great North American Race.
Culbertson Fountain, located on the Plaza in the downtown historic district, was a gift celebrating the rebuilding of Paris after the fire of 1916. Restored as a bicentennial project, this fountain is a unique focal point for the county seat of Paris and Lamar County, and was noted when Texas Monthly deemed the site as “the prettiest plaza in the State of Texas.”
M.C. Superville Jr.
The A.M. & Welma Aikin Regional Archives located at Paris Junior College offer the local history of Lamar, Red River, Delta and Fannin counties. The office replica of Senator Aikin, the father of modern education in Texas, is on display, as well as items relating to Aikin’s 46-year career in the Texas Legislature.
The Chisum Burial Site marks the place where John Chisum, Texas and New Mexico cattle baron, was buried in 1884 following his death in Eureka Springs, Ark.
The Hayden Museum of American Art houses four galleries and includes examples from every art period.
Finally, the Paris Community Theater draws regular crowds, hosting five productions a year including comedies, dramas, mysteries and musicals.