On Texas Courthouses, and the Loss Thereof

A while back, I posted “Greetings from Austin“, an introductory article on the souvenir postcard booklet from 1930s Austin, Texas. One of the cards features a view of the PWA Moderne-style Travis County Courthouse:

I have to say, PWA Moderne is one of my favorite architectural styles. Descended from Art Deco, to me it signifies the optimistic interbellum years between the (first two, hopefully) World Wars. Also, it’s closely-related to another of my favorite, Zigzag Moderne, as shown in this shot of the T&P Station in Fort Worth, Texas:

Curious about the Travis County Courthouse, I had to check if it was still standing, which it is (Google Streetview to the rescue!)

Which is fortunate, as Texas counties have a nasty habit of tearing down old courthouses to replace them with monstrosities.

Some examples:

Austin County replaced this lovely old building:

With this garbage:

Brazos County took down this:

In favor of this bit of misfortune:

Galveston County got rid of this:

In favor of whatever is going on here:

And in my hometown of Tyler, Smith County thought this grand old edifice was not worth keeping around:

And tore it down in favor of this horrendousness:

Some counties do it right, however; they keep the old building around for historical reasons while moving the functions of the court to a newer building.

For example, my current county, Collin, still has the old courthouse:

(which, admittedly, isn’t very attractive)

But they’ve since moved the courts and related functions to this bit of weirdness:

Dallas County kept around “Old Red” as a museum:

But did replace it with whatever this is :

Even Travis County is building a new building rather than tearing down their old courthouse:

While a striking building, it just doesn’t have that je ne sais quoi that makes a courthouse a courthouse. To me, this looks like another generic office building. But I’m not an architect, so what do I know?

If you’re interested in Texas courthouses, there’s a whole website that documents all 254 of them at texascourthouses.com. Go visit and take a look at some lovely buildings along with a fair-helping of architectural misadventures.

Wax Works?

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting a waxworks (or wax museum), I hope you went to one of the more-legitimate ones, such as London’s Madame Tussaud’s and not one of the poorer instances, such as the unnamed one I visited with my family a few years back.

I’ve chosen not to name this museum as I don’t want to directly call out the sheer awfulness of their celebrity wax models, but suffice to say that if you know where I live (near Dallas) and you know that it’s within an hour’s driving distance of where I live (near Dallas), you can use your Google skills to determine that it’s the only wax museum near Dallas.

I’ve chosen to share some of the more-outlandish or monstrous takes on celebrities we saw that day (forgive the photo quality—these were taken with whatever the current iPhone model was in January 2015 and it was dark).

First off, we have the crew of the original NCC-1701 Enterprise. It looks like that “five year mission” wasn’t too kind to William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, DeForrest Kelly, George Takei and James Doohan. Do Sulu and Bones have mop-top haircuts? Is Scotty constipated? What’s up with Kirk’s hairline? And why is there a studio light on the bridge?

Star Trek

Next up, we have then-President Barack Obama (halcyon days, those were). I’m convinced that this isn’t supposed to be a direct facsimile of Obama, but rather what Obama would look like as a puppet caricature if Spitting Image was still on the air.


Speaking of ex-Presidents, this museum featured an ersatz Hall of Presidents, but a Hall of Presidents wherein Disney Land had suffered a horrible fire.

All the Presidents

And a closer look at our more-recent Commanders-in-Chief:

Recent Office-Holders

What’s going on with Nixon’s floppy hair? Are Johnson’s pants the right size? Why is Reagan’s face twisted into a ghoulish grin? Where is Clinton’s hand wandering to?

Next, we have “funny” man Jay Leno. Not only is his visage terrifying, the designers of this wax model missed the mark in that they neglected to dress it completely in denim.

Funny, if by "funny", you mean "terrifying"

And, speaking of comedians, we encountered LGBT pioneer, talk show host and supposedly horrible person, Ellen DeGeneres.


Sorry, Portia, if this is a true-to-life representation of your wife.

We also came across The Duke: Marion Morrison. You might know him as the more-manly-sounding John Wayne, legendary actor and chain smoker. Once again, the wax modelers just gave up when it came to the hair.

The Duke

Along the same lines, we have the Man in Black, Johnny Cash. But this is Johnny Cash suffering the first stages of of a rare connective tissue disorder:

Here comes the Man in Black

Of all the well-known people depicted in this museum, I think the only one that came remotely close to looking like its real-life counterpart was actually the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. 

Ayatollah Assahola

I like to think that when the Ayatollah learned that a wax figure of him had been made and placed alongside the horrific caricatures of others at this particular museum, it was then that he declared the United States to be “The Great Satan”.