Ellis County Records Building - 1887

Ellis County Record Building

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from This Was Ellis County

A publication of the Junior Historians,

Waxahachie High School, 1979

Ellis County Record Building

By Ted Hancock


The County Commissioners of Ellis County determined in early 1886 that the county courthouse was becoming too crowded to hold the records of a growing county. As a result of this decision the commissioners made plans for a new building. Completed in 1887, this building had a short life for it was destroyed in 1895.

In April of 1886 the Commissioners Court asked for sealed bids for the erection of a record office for Ellis County. Bids were to be submitted before May 10. The plans and specifications for the brick or stone building were to be obtained from the County Judge for those interested in bidding on the work. At the expiration of the bid deadline, the court awarded the contract for the building to O. K. Harry of Dallas. Harry sublet the stone work to John Solon of Waxahachie. A man named Flanders had drawn plans and specifications for the building. The two-storied new record building was 25 by 54 feet with two rooms on each floor and a stairway hall in the front of the building. Walls were constructed of Palo Pinto County stone, which was of a light gray color and resembled grindstone. The framework was iron and the floors were made of cement. There was no wood in the building. The contract price for the materials and labor was $15,950. Judge O. E. Dunlap and H. H. Dunn arranged the contract and bond of the contractor.

Work on the building started between May 14 and 28. By the 28th the work on the building on the west/southwest side of the square was progressing rapidly. Work continued through the summer and into the fall months. In November the commissioners appointed County Judge Bascom McDaniel and Clerk B. F. Hawkins as a committee to select and contract for the furniture for the new building which was to contain the records of the county and district clerks. During this same time Harry and Solon were allowed $5,494.50 as a partial payment on their contract.

Sanborn map portion, 1890, showing Ellis County's third courthouse after the records building was added. The rectangle at the bottom left within the octagon fencing is the records building.

The furniture committee contracted with the Western File and Index Company of Chicago through the company agent, H. J. Brewer, for the furnishings of the record office. Equipment purchased included one case of metal roller shelves, 8 by 20 feet, containing 160 shelves; one case of U.S. document file drawers 20 feet wide by 8 feet high, containing 160 drawers; one case of metal roller shelves, 5 feet wide by 20 feet high, containing 100 shelves; and one case of U.S. file drawers 14 by 18 feet containing 112 drawers. The roller bookshelves were 20 inches wide find 14 inches and 4 inches apart with the edges bound in brass with a roller on the front of the shelf. The file cases were also of metal bound in brass. As a part of the contract price of $1,330 the company installed the furniture.

By December the stone work on this fireproof record office was complete and the masons and stonecutters who were mostly Scotch, Irish or Englishmen left town to seek another job. The Enterprise observed that these workers had been sober, industrious and gentlemanly and had made good impressions while they were in town.

When the Commissioners Court met in the latter days of January, they refused to receive the record building until defects as reported by architect Flanders were remedied. These defects involved the roof, windows, some ironwork and cracks in the cement floor. The rain came under the doors and the ironwork was judged as generally unsatisfactory. The building had been received already but there was talk of reconsidering if that were possible. It is not known whether the defects were corrected or the commissioners let the matter rest. But by February 25, the commissioners made their last payment of $5,445.50 on the building and paid the bill to the Western File and Index Company for the furniture. These payments brought to $16,860 the amount which had been spent on the construction and furnishing of the building.

On Monday, February 14, Mr. Brewer had completed the installation of the metal furniture in the offices. The County Clerk's office had one case of 160 steel and iron U.S. document file drawers for folded papers and records and a section of 160 metal rollers shelves for record books. The office of the District Clerk was fitted with 112 U.S. document file drawers and 100 roller shelves. During the last days of March the clerks moved the county records into the new building and were arranging the books and papers in the shelves and drawers.

Third courthouse with records building in foreground. Records building was added in 1887 and torn down in 1895. View from corner of Franklin & Rogers Streets looking east.

This record building served Ellis County for eight years until March of 1895 when it was destroyed to make room for the new county courthouse. The contractor for the new courthouse was paid to demolish the old building and in all probability, the stone was used as ballast for the new building.

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