Texas over Time: McLennan County Courthouse, Waco

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of GIFs that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, changing aerial views, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.

McLennanCountyCourthouseGIFPostcards dated 1908 and undated

  • Waco’s first courthouse was built in 1850 and was just a one and a half story log structure that survived in the town for about six years. McLennan County was named after Neil McLennan, who settled along the South Bosque River.
  • The fourth and final courthouse (pictured in these postcards) was built in 1901. Architect J. Riely Gordon, renowned for his Texas courthouse designs, was inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica and used materials such as steel, limestone, and Texas red granite. Design attributes include classical columns, pilasters, triangular pediments, rusticated masonry and a mid-roof dome embellished with Greek influenced eagles and statues.
  • The dome is topped with a statue of Themis, the Greek goddess of divine law and justice. She is supposed to hold the scales of justice in her left hand and a sword in her right, but various storms over the years have taken these props. Currently, she is missing her entire left arm (lost in a June 2014 storm).
  • The McLennan County courthouse is located on Courthouse Square with the entrance facing Washington Avenue and is a recorded Texas Historic Landmark.


Kelley, Dayton. The Handbook of Waco and McLennan County, Texas. Waco, TX: Texian, 1972. 73-74. Print.

“McLennan County Courthouse.” McLennan County Courthouse Waco Texas. Texas Escapes Online Magazine, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2015.

Smith, Cassie L. “Rust spots found on newly renovated McLennan County Courthouse dome.” Waco Tribune-Herald, 18 Jan. 2015.

See all of these images on Flickr. GIF and factoids by Haley Rodriguez, archives student assistant.