June is National Dairy Month (as mentioned in last week's article), so it seems like an appropriate time to highlight an area that is one of the leading dairy producers in Texas. I am speaking of the town of Sulphur Springs ( www.tourism.sulphurspringstx.org ) in Hopkins County, Texas. This photo depicts their historic, and architecturally significant, county court house.
One of the distinctive aspects of this county courthouse, is that it is located on the corner of the town square of Sulphur Springs, instead of in the center of the square, which is what I had always seen, up until the visit to this city.
Fortunately, the permanent marker shown in this photograph was on the site, and gave a great deal of history about the building. The marker made me realize I was looking at an edifice (that I had accidentally stumbled upon when driving between Texarkana and the Dallas area) that deserved further exploration. The building is constructed of granite and sandstone, in a style called Romanesque Revival. I learned more background about the courthouse, from reading the article on it at www.texasescapes.com . The building was given a designation on the Texas Historic Landmark list in 1975, and the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1977.
Stone carvers were allowed to showcase their talents in several spots around the building, including the tops of the granite entrance columns. Note the basket weave design, leaf designs, fern fronds, and other details shown in this photograph.
The Romanesque arches continue on the inside. Since this building was constructed in 1895, staircases were the way to access upper level floors, and not elevators.
The huge iron door shown in this photo protected a fireproof vault. The colorful stone flooring has endured many a footstep, and repair projects can be seen where the newer pieces are brighter in color than the original floor set down over one hundred years ago.
I read that there are about 500 dairies in the Hopkins County area, so their economic influence (www.southwestdairyfarmers.com ), must have been a factor in the fact, that around 3 million dollars in restoration work on the courthouse was funded through the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Project. The rededication of the building, following the restoration, took place in 2002.
The offset location of the courthouse, allows for a spacious public square, with plenty of room for parking and public events/gatherings. One of the most popular of these is the Hopkins County Dairy Festival, scheduled for June 8 - 15, in 2013. This festival was started in 1959 and includes a parade, street dance, queen contest, hot air balloon rally, and dairy recipe contests. One of the dairy recipe contests that garnered national attention is the Texas State Champion Homemade Ice Cream Freeze Off. That is because the event was featured on the popular Food Network television channel. The "Freeze Off" started in 2000, and is definitely a "cool competition", as would-be winners bring their ice cream freezers, rock salt, dairy products, and other ingredients, to make their concoction rival any "store bought" ice cream on the market. The price is reasonable, as well, since three dollars will get you a bowl and all-you-can-eat ice cream samples! For more information phone the Sulphur Springs Chamber of Commerce at 903-885-6515.
Architecture aficionados will notice that the massive Roman arches at the entrances are topped by second story porticoes. Then a "crown" design provides the border for the third story open porches. Just below the roof line, a band of square stones of two colors, set in a checkerboard pattern, adds accenting contrasts. The sandstone arches continue above the third story windows. Red bricks in the sidewalk create a dramatic approach to the throne-like entrance. It was this "throne-like entrance" that prompted me to write this article, as I was trying to find a visual aid to help me remember one of my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verses for the next session of classes at my church ( www.myfbcmh.com ). The verse is from Hebrews 4:16 and says "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Although an earthly throne cannot make the same guarantee as a heavenly throne, I feel confident in recommending a visit to this delightful small town (and its historic courthouse!), especially for their famous Dairy Festival. All that home-made ice cream will give you "Miles of Smiles"!! Tricia