Crane County Courthouse, Crane, Texas

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“It was named for William Cary Crane, a president of Baylor University. Crane County comprises 795 square miles of rolling prairie, bounded on the south and west by the Pecos River, which, with Juan Cardona Lake, drains the land.”

“The growing season lasts 225 days, but there is very little farming. Cattle raising brings in about $1.5 million annually. Manufacturing income averages $1.4 million annually, derived largely from steel and concrete products.”

“The area that is now Crane County was within the territory of the Lipan Apaches, who were among the originators of the plains culture common to Apaches, Comanches, Kiowas, and other Indians. This part of the Pecos country may have been crossed by Spanish explorer Felipe de Rábago y Terán in 1761, and some of the early California-bound American travelers passed through Castle Gap and Horsehead Crossing.”

“Crane County was formed in 1887 from land previously assigned to Tom Green County the same year, but for many years the area’s scant rainfall deterred settlement. In 1890 only fifteen people lived in Crane County; as late as 1900 the United States census enumerated only fifty-one people and twelve ranches in the county. Almost 17,650 cattle and 3,750 sheep were counted that year.”

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“The county seems to have experienced a brief burst of settlement during the first years of the twentieth century; Crane, the future county seat, became a post office in 1908, while census figures show that in 1910 there were seventy-one farms or ranches in the county, and that the population by that year had risen to 331. Almost no crop production was reported for the county in 1910, however, and in any case most of the new settlers had moved away by 1920, when only eight ranches, thirty-seven people, and about 4,700 cattle were reported. As late as 1918 the county had no roads, although the Texas and Pacific Railway crossed the northwest corner and the Panhandle and Santa Fe crossed the southern tip.”

“The area only began to develop after oil was discovered in the county in 1926, when an oil boom attracted thousands to the county. O. C. Kinnison opened a realty office and platted a townsite for Crane, where he named the streets for his daughters and sons. He also invited a preacher to hold services in the area; according to county tradition, local gamblers resented the gesture and gave Kinnison a beating for it.”

“Crane County was attached to Ector County for administrative purposes until 1927, but with (according to one estimate) 6,000 oil boomers in the area by that time, the county was ready for organization. The town of Crane, bustling with as many as 4,500 fortune-seekers, was designated as the county seat, and citizens organized to build a courthouse.”

“Water was a scarce commodity. People paid a dollar a barrel for water brought from a well seven miles east of town, or, if prosperous, paid $2.25 a barrel for better water from Alpine. Water was too precious then for any use but cooking or home-made whiskey; women sent their laundry to El Paso. According to the census 2,221 people were living in Crane County in 1930.”

“The county became one of the most productive oil counties in the state. In 1938 more than 5,494,600 barrels of oil was produced in the area; in 1944 more than 9,557,500 barrels was pumped, and in 1948 production was 16,851,698 barrels. Almost 27,377,800 barrels was produced in 1956, almost 30,731,500 in 1960, almost 34,092,000 in 1978, and about 26,866,000 in 1982. In 1990 the county produced almost 19,026,000 barrels of oil. By the beginning of 1991 almost 1,552,324,000 barrels of oil had been produced in the county since discovery in 1926.”

“Thanks almost exclusively to the oil industry Crane County’s population rose to 2,841 in 1940, 3,956 in 1950, 4,699 in 1960, and 4,172 in 1970. In 1980, 4,600 people lived in the county, and in 2014 the area had a population of 4,950.”

“The town of Crane ( population 3,756) is the county’s only community and its seat of government. In 2000 business establishments in the town included a foundry and a surfboard manufacturer. Tourist attractions included historic pioneer trails and Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos River.”

Handbook of Texas Online, John Leffler, “Crane County

I was the guest of Crane and Crane County on July 4, 2015.

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Crane County Courthouse – 1927

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(Photo Courtesy: TxDOT)

While by the end of the 1920s some counties in Texas were on to their second, third, fourth or fifth courthouse, Crane County had just built its first. It wasn’t until 1927 that Crane County was legally organized, making it one of the ‘youngest’ county governments in the state.

The small and humble design chosen for the courthouse is not attributed to anyone in the historical records. Unfortunately, I can’t give anyone credit. We know that it was crafted in the Mission-style and made from adobe. If it was still standing, it would be one of only two adobe courthouses in the state (both in West Texas), but its destruction by fire makes Hudspeth County alone in that regard.

Apparently, by the time Crane County elected to build a larger courthouse, this building was spared the TNT. Instead, it was moved to the local football field to be used as a storage shed (where it reportedly sat until fire brought it down).

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Crane County Courthouse – 1948

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(Photo Courtesy: texasoldphotos.com)

This was a two-story, brick and concrete courthouse that served for approximately ten years. In 1958, officials decided they wanted even more space for county business, so architectural firm Groos, Clift & Ball were brought in to design a massive addition around the back of the building.

In doing so, the renovation project included a complete redesign of the building’s exterior. In addition to many more modernizations, the north side took over the role of main entrance from the eastern doors. The resulting courthouse that stands today is significantly different in nearly all forms of appearance.

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The Crane County Courthouse’s main entrance now faces the highway. Its northern doors look on 6th Street / TX-329.

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The “motel style” is a real, popular style among modern courthouse. This is the only Texas courthouse I’ve seen that was designed in what I call the “elementary school style”. Its northern entrance looks like a place kids get dropped off by the bus, if you ask me.

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Across from those doors is a small public park, and a gazebo draped in flags for the 4th of July.

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DSC_3438DSC_3432The courthouse’s vibrant hues of blue add to an appeal that just wouldn’t exist otherwise.

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The northwest corner

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This façade faces slightly southwest, on Sue Street.

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Its view is of Crane Elementary School, directly across the street. It’s fitting, I think, that the school is next door to a courthouse that looks like it’s part of the campus.

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Along the western wall

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The southwest corner

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DSC_3466There you can find the Crane County Sheriff’s Office.

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The eastern corner, at the intersection of 7th and Alford Streets

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This is the eastern façade. When the building was first constructed in 1948, this was the main entrance.

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DSC_3489DSC_3486DSC_3487Alford Street, as viewed from the eastern doors

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Crane & Crane County

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Crane Elementary School, just next to the courthouse

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The City of Crane Municipal Court & Police Department are housed in the same building. This complex is on Alford Street, just east of the courthouse.

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Downtown Crane

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Previous Courthouse: Ward County

Next Courthouse: Coke County

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