Multiple Façades

Aerial view of the Courthouse plaza An aerial view of the Courthouse plaza shows
the multiple facades of the Old Courthouse
building detail

Henry Trost was known for designing buildings with multiple façades. The McKinley County Courthouse is an example of a building with multiple entrances. Early drawings and photographs show the building as isolated to enhance its multi-façade design. Over the past seven decades the Courthouse was gradually closed-in by buildings and vegetation which gradually obscured this important feature of the building.

tower detail

The recent incorporation of the Courthouse into an open public plaza has restored its original and intended separation from other buildings. The three entrances are separately visible at a distance: the primary north entry, the smaller east entry, and the simpler south entry. The blend of Spanish Pueblo Revival and American Art Deco elements are components of the style of each of these façades but with different emphasis on each façade.

north facade

The north façade is essentially the contemporary American Art Deco architecture of the 1930s which was inspired by Southwest Native American design. The low relief arches with inset stepped clouds flank the entry portal. Set in front of these arches are shallow, legged basins which were commonly used in both public and residential buildings of the time. The wrought iron and yellow glass exterior lights used throughout the exterior use a chevron motif that is Native American and not Spanish Pueblo Revival.

Aerial view of the Courthouse plaza Southeast view of the Old Courthouse
south facade

The Spanish Pueblo Revival-inspired style of the east façade with its elegant, softened curves suggests the building grew out of the natural environment. The architect used the intense light of the southwest to outline in shadow the low-relief surrounding the windows on the north and east façades. The hard-edged geometric simplicity of contemporary Art Deco is evident in the linear outlines of the windows and the small group of inset rectangles to the right of the entrance. The elongated wood columns flanking the door draw the eye to the elegant curves of the roof line.

south facade

The south entrance of the courthouse is set into a wall in which there are three contrasting design elements unlike the other façades: The placement of windows over the three story wall appears asymmetrical. While the door itself is modern rather than Spanish Colonial, it is constructed like the T-shaped “keyhole” doorways of Pueblo Bonito at Chaco Canyon.

exterior lamp

The south façade becomes a subtle visual metaphor for the historic Anasazi culture of the Four Corners area. The architectural ornamentation has been reduced to the placement of flanking Art Deco lights and the simple, Art Deco wood and metal door at its entrance.

The west façade of the Courthouse has no entrance and functions more as a pause in the architectural story that is subtly communicated through a shift in emphasis in style. It is part of the appreciation of a building to understand the architect’s message because buildings have always communicated a message to those who inhabit its space.

Aerial view of the Courthouse plaza A South view of the building shows a glimpse of the West facade, which connects to the New Courthouse