Criminal Court Building/ Criminal Justice Building – 200 W. Belknap Street

200 W. Belknap Street [RTHL/NR/Gov(NR)], Criminal Court Building/Criminal Justice Building, 1917-18; 1951; 1970.  The Criminal Court Building is a handsome eclectic design produced by the important Fort Worth architectural firm of Sanguinet and Staats in 1917.  Taylor Building Co. was the contractor for the project.  Built to replace a dilapidated nineteenth-century jail, the facility had cell space for both county and federal prisoners, offices for the district attorney and sheriff, a ward to house the criminally insane, and a hospital ward complete with a operating room.

Completed in September 1918, the first two stories of this “fireproof” building were constructed of Texas granite with the remaining floors of brick and terra cotta.  The two-story projecting entrance portico is supported on each end by square piers of rusticated granite.  The long face of the entablature has the words “Criminal Court” inscribed on its surface. Windows on the first two floors had wooden frames but, in the interest of safety, the windows on the four upper floors (the jail area), were steel casement windows.  Bars were located behind the deeply recessed windows so that they were not visible from the street.

Architect Wyatt C. Hedrick designed interior alterations to the building in 1951 which included the demolition of jail cell walls and the installation of dropped ceilings. During the course of a major renovation in 1970, the original windows were replaced by single fixed pane windows. At this time several of the old jail floors were converted to office use. With the construction of a newer court building (CBD 47) just west of this structure in 1962, this building was renamed the Criminal Justice Building. The Criminal Court Building relates harmoniously to the nearby Tarrant County Courthouse (CBD 163) and forms an important part of the County’s building complex. It was designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1983 and appears to be eligible for the National Register for its architectural qualities and its important role in urban design. It is also a contributor to the proposed Downtown Governmental Buildings National Register Thematic Group.

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