Phoenix Rising: Destroyed Hill County Courthouse Emerges From the Ashes
By Mary Alice Robbins
Image Courtesy of Inside the Hill County Courthouse


The Hillsboro offices of Martin, Showers, Smith & McDonald are located on the historic Courthouse Square.  Our building is older than the Courthouse, but was renovated in the 1980s. The large windows in the library on the second floor frame the Courthouse.  Harpers at one time called the Courthouse an “outstanding cathedral.”

Several structures served Hill County from its inception in 1853 until a noted architect, W.C. Dodson, designed the current structure. It was completed in 1890 and served the citizens until a fire on New Years in 1993 destroyed everything but the ivory colored rusticated limestone exterior.  Although there were some who called for the remains to be removed and replaced with a modern building, a score of dedicated individuals fought to restore the edifice.  Among those who supported the effort was Hill County native Willie Nelson who happened to be in Hillsboro the night of the fire.  Jim Showers and the Martin, Showers, Smith & McDonald firm, working with Nelson and his crew, and countless other supporters, produced an outdoor concert, “Blaze to Glory,” at the base of the remaining walls to the delight of over 5,000 seated fans. The funds raised that night as well as the world wide publicity generated enabled Hill County to supplement its insurance coverage with a grant and begin the over ten million dollar restoration.

With the help of the noted restoration architectural firm, ArchiTexas, of Dallas and Austin, Hill County was able over the next six years to not only rebuild the nationally recognized landmark, but also restore the interiors of the five levels to their original design, but with modern infrastructure. The building was faithfully and painstakingly restored to the original Texas version Second-Empire style.  Hill County is particularly proud of the District Courtroom on the second floor, pictured here, which was returned to its original grandeur.  

The current members of the law firm recall many stories related by the former partners, Billy and Crawford Martin, of famous trials and events in the building such as the conviction of Clyde Barrow, as well as speeches by William Jennings Bryan, Sam Rayburn and LBJ.  Hill County stands out in Texas as being the original home to many famous and noted individuals, among those are jurists and entertainers.  A visit to the Courthouse, as well as other historic structures in Hillsboro, is well worth your time.

Click above on the story of the Courthouse restoration efforts which appeared in a 2006 Texas Lawyer article entitled Phoenix Rising by Mary Alice Robbins.