At least two thousand five hundred pieces of hand-sanded wood make up a wooden replica of the Old Blanco County Courthouse created by local craftsman Vernon Schmidt. The replica is now on display at the Blanco Library, thanks to Matt and Martha Herden.
Vernon, who is well-known for his cabinet-making skills, tried his hand at wood-crafting and scroll work after being inspired by his daughter Doris Phipps. After retiring at age 80, Vernon produced crosses, toys, three-dimensional craft work, wall hangings, and more.
At age 96, Vernon was inspired by a calendar picture of the Old Blanco County Courthouse as it looked in the 1940s. He used his memories and began creating a wooden replica of the courthouse. Once the first replica was completed, Vernon continued to challenge his skills and made three more courthouses, each a different size. So far, he has created five courthouses.
“I got lucky enough to bargain with him for the first one,” said Martha Herden. “I made a deal with him that it would never, ever leave Blanco, because I care that much about Vernon.” Martha hopes that children will see the replica and be inspired to create something like it.
“We are honored that the library is going to accept this, to honor Vernon,” Martha added.
“We’re very honored to have it,” Shirley Beck replied. “It’s really a treasure. We hope that, not only children, but every adult will look at this and think, ‘You know, if a 97-year-old guy can do this, what can I do?’”
“I think, if Mr. Ruffini were here today, he’d be so pleased,” Martha said, referring to the courthouse’s architect Frederick E. Ruffini.
Vernon and his wife Hilda have lived their entire lives in Blanco. Hilda takes breaks from sewing and quilting to step out into Vernon’s shop, give him a word of praise, and look at the angles on his work in progress. Late at night, she brings Vernon plenty of ice for his aching hands.
Vernon related a story of his work on the stairs inside the actual courthouse. Many years ago, when the staircases were taken down, he quietly went about restoring the stairs and hand-sanding the railing to get the angles and curves.