Midland County Courthouse, Midland, Texas

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“The county was named for its location halfway between Fort Worth and El Paso on the Texas and Pacific Railway. Midland County extends across 939 square miles of flat land broken by draws and covered by scattered mesquite; sandy red and dark loam soils predominate, and elevations range from 2,550 to 2,900 feet above sea level. There are no rivers or any other permanent surface waters in the county.”

“The city of Midland is the county’s seat of government and the bustling administrative center of the huge Permian Basin petroleum fields. Over $1 billion was paid in wages to the county’s 54,207 workers in 1980. About $53,800,000 in goods were manufactured in Midland County in 1982, including clothing, oilfield equipment, plastics, electronic calculators, and watches.”

“The Comanches used the Great Comanche War Trail, which ran through the area from Indian territory to the south. In 1839 Mexican travelers blazed the Chihuahua Trail, which ran northwesterly from the site of Big Spring to Castle Gap and Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos River. Another trail was the Emigrant Road, which led to the site of Preston on the Red River. Wagon roads also crossed through the area. One led from the head of the North Concho to the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos; another, also beginning at the head of the North Concho, ran to Five Wells and Laguna Cuates.”

“In the 1870s buffalo hunters decimated the great herds occupying the region, forcing Indian migration and setting the stage for a new era of land use.”

“Ranching began in the area after Herman Garrett shipped sheep from California to El Paso on the Southern Pacific Railroad. Garrett drove 300 sheep across the Pecos River, at the present site of the town of Midland, before moving on to Mustang Draw and settling in as the county’s first permanent settler. Promotions by the Texas and Pacific Railway, which built into the area in 1881, brought other sheepmen to what is now Midland County. Nelson Morris, a Chicago meatpacker who bought 200,000 acres from the state for his Black Angus ranch, was the first to fence county land. Cattle were introduced after ranchers discovered that abundant water could be obtained from wells.”


“In 1885, when 300 people were living in the area, the Texas state legislature established Midland County from lands previously assigned to Tom Green County, and the county was organized later that same year. The town of Midland, originally named Midway to suggest its place on the Fort Worth-El Paso rail line, became county seat. The Staked Plains, the county’s first newspaper, began publication in 1885, and another paper, the Midland Gazette, was in circulation by 1889; the county’s first school house was built the next year. By 1890 twenty-nine ranches had been established in the county, and the agricultural census reported 14,867 cattle and 13,364 sheep in the area.”

“The United States Census counted 1,033 people living in Midland County in 1890. The area had good soils but only sparse rainfall, and in 1891 the United States Department of Agriculture conducted a rain-making experiment in the county; watermelons and pumpkins were planted in another experiment. Further settlement in the area was encouraged when the Texas legislature passed the Four-Section Act of 1895; this law enabled stockmen to buy four sections for each family member at favorable terms, and provided opportunities for leasing range lands for a modest price. By 1900 there were seventy-three ranches in Midland County, and cattle dominated the local economy.”

“Farmers moved into Midland County in increasing numbers between 1900 and 1930, though ranching continued to dominate the local economy until the oil boom of the 1920s. By 1910 there were 178 ranches and farms in Midland County. While 29,000 cattle were reported on local farms that year, crop farming was beginning to become established: 2,438 acres of sorghum, 1,755 acres of cotton, and 421 acres of corn were grown in the county that year.”

“Midland County’s economy also benefitted when oil was discovered in neighboring counties. After strikes were made in Reagan County in 1923 and in Ector County in 1926, the city of Midland became the corporate headquarters for oil companies. Farm expansion and the oil boom combined to attract thousands of new people to the county, and by 1930 the area’s population had increased to 8,005. The oil boom also helped to buoy the area economy during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Cotton production dropped by more than 60 percent during the 1930s, and by 1940 only 9,622 acres in the county were devoted to the fiber; during that same period, however, the population of the county increased to 11,721.”

“A great boom in 1945 resulted from production of Midland County wells, and the Midland South Pool success in 1947 established the wealth of the Permian Basin. Yet another boom followed between 1949 and 1952, assuring long-range prosperity for the county; the town of Midland came to be called “The Tall City of the Plains,” as oil companies built high-rise buildings there. The county became one of the more productive petroleum areas in the state.”

“In 1990 the county produced 8,693,000 barrels of crude oil; by January 1, 1991, 455,926,000 barrels of oil had been taken from county lands since discovery in 1945.”

“Much of the area’s economy revolved around oil and gas extraction and related industries, though many workers were employed in construction, trucking, the production of plastics, and other industries; the county’s non-farm income in 1981 reached $1,452,334,000.”

“Except for a slight dip in the 1960s Midland County’s population has grown steadily since the boom of the 1940s, when the population more than doubled.”

“By 2014 there were 155,830 people living in Midland County. About 50 percent were Anglo, 6.8 percent African American, and 41.1 percent Hispanic. Most of the area’s population lives in the city of Midland (population, 127,598). Other communities include Odessa (mostly in Ector County), Germania, and Spraberry. Midland is also the location of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, the Museum of the Southwest, the Midland County Historical Museum, and the Pliska Aeroplane Museum.”

Handbook of Texas Online, John Leffler, “Midland County

I was the guest of Midland and Midland County on July 3, 2015.


Midland County Courthouse – 1886

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(Photo Courtesy: Terry Jeanson)

The firm Hunter & Weller is responsible for this design. It was a wooden frame building that cost the county $2,934.65.


Midland County Courthouse – 1905

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(Photo Courtesy: texasoldphotos.com)

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(Photo Courtesy: THC)

This striking, Romanesque inspired courthouse was built to accommodate more space for a growing Midland County at the turn of the century. Its red sandstone was quarried from the Pecos River, and later sold to two homeowners after the courthouse was demolished. Subsequent houses were made from the building’s remains. Apparently, one still stands.

The architect for this building was the elusive William Martin of Comanche, one half of the notably mysterious architectural pair Martin & Moodie. Their design in McCulloch County (which still stands) echoes this one to some extent.

It served from 1905 to 1929, at which point it met a fatal end. What a shame.


Midland County Courthouse – 1930

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(Photo Courtesy: THC)

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(Photo Courtesy: TxDOT)

Successful Moderne architects Voelcker & Dixon were invited to Midland in 1930 to develop “one of the finest and most beautiful buildings in West Texas”. The above images are of their Art Deco-inspired final product. It was made from limestone and originally stood five stories. The Texas Historical Commission mentions its: “low to high relief decorative panels, cornice, and pilaster capitals”, as well.

The modernization movement of the 20th Century’s latter half didn’t miss Midland County, however. A massive renovation in 1974 saw a complete reworking of the original building, tearing all Moderne signs of the 1930s away and replacing them with something entirely different. Few initial design elements remained when architects Dixon & Staley (of Wichita Falls) were finished. The construction effort was carried out by the J.W. Cooper Company.

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(Photo Courtesy: THC)

But, the story doesn’t end there.

In 2008, Midland County officials began the official renovation project of the Heritage Building (1983), an eleven-story structure just northeast of the courthouse. Approximately two years later, on September 27, 2010, the doors officially reopened as the Midland County Courthouse. All offices were vacated in the 1930/1974 building, and from 2010 to 2015 it sat vacated and abandoned.

On March 24, 2015, the Midland City Council approved the demolition of the building by selecting Lloyd D. Nabors Demolition LLC to carry out the process. Estimates said it would cost the county $2,800,000, with 1.4 million of that total for the demolition itself. The rest would be for the removal of asbestos and other concerns. However, by the time of the demolition (in November 2015), the price had been raised to a reported, approximate six million dollars in fees.


(Photo Courtesy: KWES, NEWS WEST 9)

When I arrived in Midland in July 2015, the courthouse had begun its gradual descent towards demolition. Luckily, I got there before it was all cleared away. However, as of today, the courthouse unfortunately no longer exists.

In its place will stand the Hotel Santa Rita, which is due to be completed in March 2019. Construction began on February 28, 2017.


Midland County Courthouse – 2010






Center of the Petroplex


DSC_2474A photo frozen in time: we will never see this solemn courthouse again.


The beginning of the end





This was the western façade, on Colorado Street.

DSC_2488A large county parking lot sits across the road.



The northwest corner





This building is one block to the north, spied from the northern side of the courthouse. The current courthouse looms in the background.


The northeast corner






DSC_2515This was the eastern façade; it faced an adjacent park and the Midland Center. Assumably, part of this area will be renovated during the construction of the Hotel Santa Rita.



In days gone by, this was the main entrance.





Midland & Midland County



The historic Petroleum building, on Texas Avenue



West Texas Livin’



DSC_2574Previous Courthouse: Martin County

Next Courthouse: Ector County

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