Texas has more historic courthouses that any other state. Today more than 235 courthouses still stand that are least 50 years old. About 80 were built before the turn of the 20th century. By the end of that century, most of these structures were significantly deteriorated due to inadequate maintenance, insensitive modifications or weather related damage. The Texas Historical Commission (THC) documented the condition of 50 of the state’s oldest courthouses in the late 1990s and determined that counties lacked the resources to preserve the buildings for future generations.
Providing assistance to counties reached a critical point when Texas county courthouses were added to the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered Properties list in 1998. The state’s response was to create the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, the largest preservation grant program ever initiated by a state government. This nationally recognized preservation program has turned around the trend of disrepair and begun the process of restoring the state’s most treasured historic landmarks.
The Texas Historical Commission announced in June 1999 that the Texas Legislature and Gov. George W. Bush had established, through House Bill (HB) 1341, the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program (THCPP). The program provides partial matching grants to Texas counties for the restoration of their historic county courthouses. The program began with a $50 million appropriation for the grants, which were awarded in two rounds in 2000 and 2001.
Subsequently, the program's success led to continued funding from the Texas Legislature. In 2001, legislators approved another $50 million allocation to fund Round III grants. In 2003, the 78th Texas Legislature approved the sale of $45 million in bonds to continue the program. In 2005, the legislature earmarked $80 million for courthouses from the federal transportation enhancement program; however, these funds were not approved for use by the Federal highway Administration. As a consequence, in 2007 the 80th Texas Legislature appropriated $62 million in bond funding for a long-awaited Round V grant cycle. The 81st Texas Legislature allocated $20 million in bond funding for the 2010-2011 grant cycle and the 82nd Texas Legislature allocated $20 million in bond funding for the 2012-2013 biennium.
In support of the projects completed with state grant funds, the THC also created the Texas Courthouse Stewardship Program. It provides education and training to county staff for future preservation needs.
2013 THCPP Overview Map (pdf)