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.
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.
Counties have received full funding through the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program
Comal County Courthouse Rededication
A $3.4 million construction grant from the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program has aided Comal County in its efforts to restore the Comal County Courthouse to its historic 1898 appearance. On the exterior, a skybridge and other later additions were removed and corner entry porches were reopened. The district courtroom interior has been returned to its original two-story height and its balcony reconstructed to its historic design. Historic colors and finishes, including custom replicated wallpaper, have returned the building to its former grandeur.
This project was executed by Tere O’Connell of Volz & Associates, project architect and RBR Construction, general contractor. The courthouse was rededicated on Tuesday, January 22, 2013. The Comal County Courthouse, designed by James Riely Gordon in the Romanesque Revival style, was initially constructed in 1898 and dedicated in January 1899.
La Salle County Courthouse Rededication
The 1931 La Salle County Courthouse in Cotulla, a recipient of major funding through the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program funds, has completed its restoration. The Moderne-style structure, designed by architect Henry Phelps of San Antonio, was little changed in 80 years except that it needed extensive repairs. The restoration project included the preservation of original historic features such as the steel windows, brick and terra cotta masonry, terrazzo floors, and vault doors. The gold and violet colors of the plaster walls, cork and lineoleum floors replicate the original design, and a new geothermal system replaced the former window-mounted air conditioners.
The rededication of the La Salle County Courthouse was greatly celebrated in an outdoor public ceremony on the courthouse lawn on Saturday, January 26. The architect was Killis Almond of San Antonio and J.C. Stoddard Construction, general contractor, both of San Antonio.