The Ellis County Courthouse was built from architectural plans created by J. Riely Gordon. The building incorporates the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style originally created by Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson and made popular in Texas by J. Riely Gordon.
For the Ellis County Courthouse Gordon used a floor-plan different from many other county courthouses in Texas of the same vintage. Many county courthouses built in this time period had intersecting halls on the first floor that created the rigidity required to support the weight of the district courtroom positioned near the middle of the building on the second floor. For the Ellis County Courthouse Gordon used a floor plan that provided an open space at the center of the building first surrounded by a staircase then surrounded by a gallery that provided access to offices and courtrooms. The large second-floor courtroom was pushed off to one side of the building so the center space was open all the way up to the clock tower. This open space at the center of the courthouse created a chimney effect. Cool air was drawn in through first floor windows toward the center of the building then straight up to the tower where hot air was exhausted out of the building.
Besides the advantage of superior ventilation, Gordon’s design incorporated a circular form which worked well with the Romanesque Revival architectural style. Turrets containing spiral stairways and balconies incorporate readily with the circular form. The building is further enhanced by the use of stone of contrasting colors. From the building’s base first gray and then pink granite are used. Red Pecos sandstone is used for accent, and cream colored sandstone is also used sparingly on a few stringcourses.
Ellis County’s courthouse is without a doubt one of the grandest old county courthouses in the Southwest. To make it even more interesting the county recently spent about eleven million dollars restoring the building. After years of restoration work, the courthouse was reopened in the fall of 2002. The restoration was so detailed that they matched the colors of the interior to those used when the building was originally built, and the county bought red sandstone for repairs from the same query that produced the stone used for construction in 1895. This is truly a good time to go see the Ellis County Courthouse!