On August 25, 1883, the courthouse and jail narrowly escaped being burned to the ground. A fire of unknown origin broke out in the kitchen near the jail, razed the cook house, but through the “great effort of the citizens” failed to damage the courthouse or jail.
Thirty-one years later, on August 11, 1914, the Courthouse did not escape this fate. A fire erupted at about 4 a.m. and the frame building, by then valued at $40,000, went up in flames. The first alarm came from the jailer at the nearby county jail who released a volley of shots to wake up the community.
County Judge Frank Clarkson was sleeping in his office located at the jailhouse and was at the scene almost immediately and quickly assured residents that all records were safe in a steel fireproof vault. The judge spoke prematurely as the records needed for the audit were indeed lost in the fire.
A year after the courthouse was heavily damaged by fire–the building was not completely burned to the ground–the commissioners court determined that the need for courthouse had become a public necessity and began the process of building a new courthouse.
On August 23, 1915, they purchased from Dario and Andrea Garcia the remaining nine lots– numbered 1-6 and 10-12–of Block 36 in San Diego for the purpose of building a new courthouse. Three days later, the court entered into a contract with L. G. Hamilton for $67,500 to build a new courthouse within seven months.
Not all property owners in Duval County approved of the court’s efforts. A hearing was held at Alice in neighboring Jim Wells County on September 25 before Judge Voll M. Taylor in which property owners won an injunction against County Judge G. A. Parr, Sheriff and Tax Collector Archie Tobin, and the four commissioner to stop payment of work on courthouse. The proposal to issue bonds for new courthouse to replace one that burned was enjoined.
Ultimately, the county prevailed and a new classical revival courthouse was built of red brick. Marshall R. Sanguinet & Carl G. Staats designed the building with partner R. D. Gottlieb. Based in Fort Worth, Sanguinet & Staats designed buildings all over Texas. The court extended Hamilton’s contract until October 1916 and with extras the project was completed for $70,685. The current courthouse was finished in 1916 under administration of County Judge G. (Givens) A. Parr.
After the courthouse was completed, the court saw a need to do additional work and contracted with Ralph Taylor to make improvements to the remains of the old courthouse and the county jail, to build sidewalks and fences, and to provide for water and sewer facilities for the new courthouse campus. The costs for these improvements totaled $30,000 and the court agreed to issue warrants over a 20-year period to pay for the work.
The court also issued warrants for the purchase of furniture for the new courthouse. They purchased metal furniture, such as a safe, a vault, file cabinets, desks and shelving for the sum $1,949. The seller was the Art Metal Construction Co. of Jamestown, Massachusetts. The commissioners also purchased other assorted furnishings from A. M. McElvis for a sum of $10,984. The order included such items as, roll-top and typewriter desks, chairs, stools, tables, hat trees, cuspidors, waste baskets, etc.