One of TexasÆs most talented architects in the late nineteenth century, James Riely Gordon may have been the nationÆs most prolific designer of county courthouses. Though GordonÆs Texas courthouses made his reputation, they represent only half of a career in which we see reflected many issues and events shaping American architecture. Most notable were the effort among architects to organize their craft as a profession, the controversial Office of the Supervising Architect of the United States Treasury, the 1893 WorldÆs Columbian Exposition, and the City Beautiful Movement.
Situating GordonÆs career, Meister focuses on the public architecture, the pursuit of which took Gordon from San Antonio to Dallas and on to Chicago and New York City as he secured commissions in nine states. Competition was fierce, and Gordon often had to defend his reputation against scandalous charges leveled by jealous architects and unscrupulous politicians.
In his interdisciplinary approach, Meister examines political, cultural, and economic forces for their impact on the finished buildings as well as on GordonÆs career and exposes the political and legal wrangling so often attendant to the construction of buildings that serve as the nexus for their communities.