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Lone Star Book Reviews
By Michelle Newby, NBCC
Contributing Editor

 

Michelle Newby is contributing editor at Lone Star Literary Life, reviewer for Foreword Reviews, freelance writer, member of the National Book Critics Circle, and blogger at www.TexasBookLover.com. Her reviews appear or are forthcoming in Pleiades Magazine, Rain Taxi, World Literature Today, South85 Journal, The Review Review, Concho River Review, Monkeybicycle, Mosaic Literary Magazine, Atticus Review, and The Collagist.

 

Lone Star Book Reviews
of Texas books appear weekly
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Brantley Hightower is a licensed architect who received a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Texas at Austin as well as a Post-Professional Masters of Architecture degree from Princeton University. He has worked for Perkins & Will in Chicago, Max Levy Architect in Dallas and Lake | Flato Architects in San Antonio. His design work outside these offices has won numerous awards and has been exhibited in Arizona, New York, New Jersey, Texas and Washington, DC.

Texas: Architecture

Brantley Hightower

The Courthouses of Central Texas

Austin: University of Texas Press

978-0-292-76294-7, hardcover, $45.00

192 pages; 92 color illustrations, 61 maps

Spring 2015

 

May is recognized each year as Preservation Month, an opportunity to highlight our shared heritage and why we should save it. The Courthouses of Central Texas by Brantley Hightower, an elegantly conceived and executed coffee-table book, volume 20 in the University of Texas Press’s Clifton and Shirley Caldwell Texas Heritage Series, features Texas’s beloved architectural confections: our distinctive courthouses. Handsome in its subdued burnt orange, black, and bone color scheme, Courthouses brims with sepia-toned photographs and architectural drawings of the fifty courthouses in the central Texas region, as well as the history of each, on matte heavy-stock paper.

 

Each courthouse in the central Texas region is addressed individually. From the fairly simple Italianate limestone of the Kendall County courthouse, the grand Renaissance Revival style of Bell County, the awkward mishmash of medieval towers and Second Empire style of Hamilton County, the Gothic drama of Bosque County, to the low horizontal modernism of Zavala County, each of these buildings is unique. “The collection of county courthouses built in central Texas represents a wide spectrum of architectural styles, approaches, and ambitions. This diversity is not random, but the product of the specific social, economic, and political forces in existence when a courthouse was designed and constructed. As such, each courthouse can be seen as a reflection of a particular community at a particular place and time.” For example, courthouses were situated differently depending upon whether the municipality was a Spanish land grant town or settled by Anglos or by immigrants from continental Europe. Size and style differed depending upon the availability of various funding options, the state of the economy, and current fashions. Entries for each courthouse are followed by a concise discussion of the architects, preservation challenges, and the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program.

 

Courthouses is not merely a pretty collection of photographs. From the poetic foreword penned by Max Levy to Hightower’s insightful social commentary on the significance of these public buildings for disparate societal constituencies, there is food for thought here as well. The courthouses of Texas were, above all, aspirational. As Max Levy, FAIA, notes in his foreword, “What…emerges is this architectural principle: that a single building, distinguished by its setting and composure, crafted with care and designed with meaning for its community, can affect an entire town.”

 

I suggest a road trip. Who’s in?

 

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READ MORE about the book and the project at www.courthousesofcentraltexas.com

 

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