The Bexar County Courthouse is the largest and oldest continuously operated historic courthouse in Texas.
It was the fifth seat of government in Bexar County, the first four having been ruled by a succession of governments and political entities including Spain, Mexico, The Republic of Texas, The Confederate States of America, and the United States.
Each of the four predecessor buildings were located within two blocks of the existing historic courthouse, in the heart of downtown San Antonio.
The Casas Reales served as a municipal headquarters under Spanish, Mexican, Republic of Texas, and American regimes.
These structures served as the governor’s residence after 1772, the courthouse, and on the corner, the juzgado/calabozo/jaula or jail. That portion of old Market Street was thus known as Calabozo St. These buildings stood on the east side of the Plaza de las Islas/ Main Plaza just opposite San Fernando Cathedral.
This painting shows the Colonial-era Casas Reales in 1849, which appeared about nine years after the 1840 massacre of Nermernuh/ Comanche chiefs known as the Council House Fight.
The Bat Cave, 1851
So called because large numbers of Mexican free tailed bats that lived under its roof, it housed the City Hall, and also the jail behind it. Nothing remains of the structure today, but it was in front of the Spanish Governor’s Palace on Military Plaza.
Masonic Building, 1872
In 1872, the Masonic Building on Soledad Street was where the 1880s-era Courthouse was erected as an outgrowth, along with various improvements and a mansard roof.
The French Building, circa 1859
The French Building, on Plaza de las Islas and Dwyer, was used as a county courthouse. Courtesy of Maryann Guerra, Wandita Ford Turner, and The Institute of Texas Cultures at The University of Texas at San Antonio.
The Bexar County Courthouse, 1896
The Bexar County Courthouse was built between 1892-1896 and was recently restored to its original grandeur. Today’s current Courthouse stands on the corner of Dolorosa and Dwyer streets.