Originally designed by James Riely Gordon, the Bexar County Courthouse is the seat of Bexar County government. Its design is of the Romanesque Revival and Neo-Victorian style that was popularized by H.H. Richardson. A largely self-taught and extremely talented Architect, Gordon progressed in his career to become nationally famous. After designing 17 of the historic courthouses in Texas, he moved from his native Bexar County to New York City where his prolific work as well as commissions in many states in the US earned him a place in the annals of great American Architects. It was at the Bexar County Courthouse where he first initiated his environmental design concepts that included an east courtyard intended to capture breezes wafting from the nearby bend in the San Antonio River. The vestiges of that original courtyard and the U-shape of the original footprint, were preserved in the 1926 expansion designed by Phelps and DeWeese and are extant today.
Seats of Bexar County government that preceeded the Courthouse, beginning in the Spanish Colonial settlement of La Villa de San Fernando, include four buildings: first, the Spanish Casas Reales, the shared County/Municipal building known as the “Bat Cave”, the Masonic Lodge, and the French Building. Each of these predecessor seats of County government were sequentially located on or within a few hundred feet of the original Plaza de las Islas, which is now known as Main Plaza in downtown San Antonio. The historic Bexar County Courthouse is still situated on the edge of the original plaza, defined by its original Spanish Colonial urban pattern as prescribed in “The Laws of the Indies”, mandated by the Spanish Crown. This is different from the other 234 historic courthouses in Texas, of which almost all are situated in the middle of a courthouse square surrounded by landscaping.
The significance of Bexar County in the history of the United States has not been widely communicated. Its original boundary extended north through what is now the State of Wyoming. Through various events in US history the boundary of Bexar County changed, along with the boundary of the Republic of Texas. Bexar County’s original boundary helped shape the Republic of Texas, and the boundaries of multiple states in the US including Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana and Texas.
Named by the Viceroy to honor his brother the Duque de Bejar, a fallen war hero, Bexar County government maintains is relationship with the current Duque de Bexar in Spain. There is a direct historic connection between the history of el condado de Bejar (Bexar County), the Spanish Colonial settlement of la Villa de San Fernando and its Catedral de San Fernando, el Presidio de Bejar, and the five Spanish Colonial Missions of San Antonio which are under consideration for designation as a World Heritage Site (Mision San Antonio de Valero, Mision San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo, Mision Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion de Acuna, Mision San Juan de Capistrano, and Mision San Francisco de la Espada, and their associated settlements, ranches and farms).