Beauty Behind Apocalypse: the Real Texas Courthouse in "The Leftovers"


Architecture, Courthouses

Caldwell County Courthouse as it appears in "The Leftovers." Photo by Van Redin, courtesy of HBO.For a few months last year, Lockhart’s beautiful county courthouse square transformed into the fictional town of Jarden, Texas—the only town in the world spared from a mysterious global cataclysm in the HBO original series “The Leftovers.”

The show’s first season filmed in Westchester County, New York, but for season two the production moved to Central Texas. The show’s executive producer Mimi Leder told Austin Monthly that Lockhart beat out Atlanta and spots in California due in part to the well-preserved historic architecture in the “Barbecue Capital of Texas.”

A major part of Lockhart’s historic charm is the ethereal look of the Caldwell County Courthouse, a beautifully restored Second Empire-style building that dominates the county square.

The courthouse features prominently in several episodes of the show, and also appears in many of the promotional images distributed by HBO and the show’s website.

Like “The Leftovers,” some mystery surrounds the design of the courthouse. While it was built by contracting firm Martin, Brynes & Johnson, there is no clear record of who designed the courthouse. THC Architecture Division staff believe credit likely goes to Henri E.M. Guindon, but the design is alternately attributed to both Guindon and Alfred Giles in different instances.

Built in 1894, the three-story courthouse is characterized by a dominant mansard roof, high central tower, and a four-way number sixteen Seth Thomas clock with a 900-pound bell. Pecos Red Sandstone lintels, arches, and stringcourses accent walls of rusticated Muldoon blue limestone. Black slate finishes the roof.

The Caldwell County Courthouse only received minor upgrades over the decades.Over the decades, the building received only minor repairs and improvements. One of those improvements was a previous “cream and green” color scheme that was important enough to Lockhart’s City Council that they requested the nearby H.E.B.’s colors to match it.

In a beautiful example of community-driven support, the courthouse received a full restoration in 1998. A mix of fundraisers, gifts, donations, grants, and voter-approved initiatives funded the effort to bring the courthouse back to Henri E.M. Guindon’s original vision—including the original colors. This vision is what viewers can see throughout the second season of “The Leftovers.”

As the home of such a majestic structure, Caldwell County experienced a very specific type of economic development that restored historic county courthouses can bring to a community. Television and motion picture production companies frequently require courthouse scenes or period details.

Preserving a Texas historic county courthouse helps maintain a community’s unique identityProminent productions that came to Texas and utilized county courthouses include the 2012 remake of “True Grit,” “Bernie,” the television shows “Revolution,” “Friday Night Lights,” and “Walker, Texas Ranger,” plus classics including “Places in the Heart” and “The Last Picture Show.” Combined with the state’s financial incentives and experienced workforce, filming at county courthouses can generate revenue and publicity for the local community long after the cameras have stopped rolling.

Even if no production is ever filmed in a courthouse, preserving a Texas historic county courthouse helps maintain a community’s unique identity. They can be a majestic and festive site for community gatherings, wedding photo backdrops, and heritage traveler destinations. Learn more about the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program

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