Bring Home the Dome

Located in Gainesville, Texas, lies the historic Morton Museum of Cooke County. The Morton Museum is a two-story building, originally the county jail, city hall and fire station – all in one. Within the next few decades, the jail, city hall and fire department all moved out of their original locations and into new buildings. This left the county with an empty old building, full of character and history. A woman named Mary McCain heard that the building was about to be torn down and marched herself in, saving it from destruction. Had she not protested, the building would have been destroyed. This building became the treasured Morton Museum in 1968, the first and most celebrated result of the then newly formed Cooke County Heritage Society.

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The Birth of the Morton Museum

The Morton Museum would not be the same without their large, striking stained glass dome as the centerpiece of the museum. The piece dates back to 1905 and is currently located in the Stanton Studios shop in Waco, Texas, undergoing complete restoration. Stanton Studios has been hard at work taking apart every piece of glass in order to clean it and have it looking as it did when it was originally created. After cleaning each piece of glass, the pieces come back together with new lead pieces that are cut and attached to the glass. This will complete the construction process of the dome. The Stanton Studios team has been working with the best of care, ensuring that the dome looks the way it did in 1905.

The Birth of the Dome

This special dome was commissioned by William and Ella Dougherty. William was one of the most prominent and influential men in Cooke county. He was highly respected – a businessman, cattle farmer and property owner. The Dougherty’s lived on a grand estate; in fact, at the time, it was the largest home in Gainesville. Ella had big dreams for this home. She envisioned a grand cape, suited to entertain a grandeur of guests. In order to fulfill this vision, Ella commissioned a dome to be installed in their ballroom. Instead of the cupola that used to fill the space, she used it as the space for the beloved dome.

William H. Dougherty

Ella and her husband William, also known as Captain Bill, became interested in Japanese culture. They followed the oriental trend that exploded during their time. This craze took off in 1876 with the Philadelphia Exposition. Architects of the era were greatly influenced by Japanese tea houses and other oriental architecture. The Dougherty’s loved this style because it showed regality and stylishness. William and Ella ordered an oriental piece of their own from a catalog. They picked out a beautiful, 12 panel stained glass dome. Four of these panels were hand painted with warlords and geisha. In the center of their grand ballroom hung this irreplaceable dome, a memorable piece of art that left guests speechless.

Ella Newsome Dougherty

However, the story does not end there. The dome did not find its final resting place in the Dougherty’s ballroom, because the Dougherty’s decided to move from Gainesville to California. William was a sincere friend and supporter of education. This influenced his decision to donate their home to become the first high school in Gainesville. For a portion of time, the dome was placed in the high school’s music room before it made its way into storage.

By the late 1960’s, the Morton Museum became a reality and Judge William Carroll purchased the dome. He donated it to the museum in honor of his grandparents and aunt, Mr. & Mrs. Bud Doty and Lillian Doty. Since it’s inception, the Mortion Museum has had the privilege of displaying the dome. It is the signature of the museum and an iconic piece for all of Gainesville.

Rededicating the Dome

September 22 at 11:30

Rededication of the historic Dougherty Morton Dome, of which the public is welcome to attend, will be at 11:30 a.m., September 22, 2016.

Information for this blog post came from the Morton Museum of Cooke County. Find out more history by visiting their website here

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