Historical Waxahachie

historic courthouse

Fertile land abundant with ever-flowing natural springs, Indian settlements and rich black soil (perfect for high yields of cotton and other agricultural products) all formed the backdrop for a colorful history of Ellis County and Waxahachie, Texas.

Founded in 1848 and located in the heart of the county, the community of Waxahachie is settled on the banks of the Waxahachie Creek. Its unique name is derived from the Indian word meaning cow or buffalo. The famed Shawnee and Chisholm Trails, which became major cattle trails to the north, ran through the center of Waxahachie, an area now known as the Historic Downtown District.

Waxahachie was established as the county seat of Ellis County in 1850. The first District Courthouse session was held in a courthouse less than 300-square feet, and built of used logs for less than $100.

The introduction of several railroads to Waxahachie in 1879 allowed cotton farmers to move crops to market more efficiently. As cattle boomed and cotton blossomed, the wealth of both contributed to the massive, ornate Victorian style homes built in what is now designated the West End and Oldham Historic Districts.

Recognized Historic Structures

The Ellis County Courthouse: Dedicated in 1895, the H.H. Richardson Romanesque structure is a great example of the only true American school of architecture. The latest renovation of the majestic courthouse was completed in early 2003, and extensive interior and exterior renovations and landscaping brought the historic Texas landmark up to prime condition.

The present picturesque nine-story sandstone and granite courthouse, approximately 24,000 square feet, features the famed lofty four-faced clock that towers over the Historic Downtown District.

Thousands visit the famed building, and it has also been the setting for many of the over 30 movies filmed in Waxahachie — in the 1980s alone, three Academy Award winning movies were filmed here (Places in the Heart, Tender Mercies, The Trip to Bountiful).

The Chautauqua Auditorium: Built in 1902, the Chautauqua Auditorium is one of the most interesting historical structures. Located in beautiful Getzendaner Park on Waxahachie’s Historic West End, the Auditorium seats 2,500 people, and entices people from all over the state to attend entertainment events.

Designated as a Texas State Historical Building, this unique octagonal-shaped wooden structure has also been placed on the National Register of Historical Buildings and Sites. It is one of six of its kind remaining in America.

Will Rogers and William Jennings Bryan were among some of the great artists and speakers who performed for the thousands that gathered there for cultural fulfillment. The auditorium still features numerous theatrical, musical and family-oriented activities each year.

Waxahachie’s Chautauqua Assembly, now in its fifth year of operation, is a revitalization program currently under way to promote and preserve the concept of the original Chautauqua Auditorium.

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