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A Texas Courthouse with Texas Character

Some buildings seem to have their own personality. Some seem to have a life of their own. The Blanco County Courthouse has both. Over the years it’s served as an office, a theater, a library, a town hall, a school and a hospital — over 1,000 babies were born in its rooms. In its own unique way, this landmark has been a leading citizen of the town of Blanco since 1886.

But like most old citizens, the Courthouse began to show its age. Eventually it was sold. But when Blanco residents learned that it was to be dismantled and moved, a group of current residents decided to preserve this historic inhabitant and return it to its former glory.

Restored and rededicated in 1998, it now serves as a place for the community to gather and celebrate. And, most recently, this old courthouse has taken on a new role in an old film. The 1969 classic True Grit is being remade by the Coen brothers, and the Blanco County Courthouse served as a primary filming location during shooting this past summer. Pretty good for a 124-year-old actor!


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A Character Straight Out of the Old West

Buildings come and go, but occasionally a building takes on a life of its own, and its story can be as complex and colorful as that of any fictional character. That’s certainly the case with the Blanco County Courthouse.

This beautiful building was designed by F. E. Ruffini, and is considered an outstanding example of the Second Empire style of architecture, which incorporated stylistic approaches popular with the French at that time. Although it’s still called the “Blanco County Courthouse,” it only served that purpose for four years, until Kendall County’s formation made it impossible to reach the county seat in less than a day’s ride — a stipulation required by state law.  

Since then, the courthouse has housed offices for banks, tax collectors, doctors, lawyers, dentists and real estate brokers. It’s been a theater, opera house, library, town hall and the Farmers’ Union Hall. Twice it served as a school when other buildings were unable to provide for local students. And from 1937 to 1961 it was the local hospital, where over 1,000 little Texans were born.

Over time, this grand building began to show its age, and only the work of local citizens prevented it from being dismantled and moved to a ranch, where it would have become a private residence. When organizers repurchased the courthouse, they restored much of the building to its former glory, and a rededication ceremony was held in 1998.

The story is far from over for the Blanco County Courthouse; it's recently taken on a new role in a major Hollywood movie. A remake of the 1969 classic True Grit was shot in Central Texas this summer, and this beautiful old building served as a primary setting. Make sure to catch it in theaters this Christmas.

If you want to take a look at this historic old character, there’s no better time than the weeks leading up to Christmas. Festooned with over 100,000 lights, the Courthouse is the centerpiece of Johnson City’s festivities, and it lights up the sky each night until January 1st.

You can also visit the Courthouse during Market Days, where folks from all over come to trade the things they grow and craft. Market Days take place the third Saturday of each month from March through November. This year, there’s a special Market Day on December 11th, so come by and stick around for the evening light show to watch a new star of the silver screen light up the Texas sky.