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.
Income generated through the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program
The goal of this THCPP Round VIII grant cycle is to assist communities whose historic county courthouses have urgent or critical needs. Due to the very limited $4.2 million appropriation made in the 83rd Texas Legislative Session, grants were limited to a maximum $450,000 state share with a 50/50 minimum match requirement. The 24 applications submitted for the Round VIII grant cycle in 2014 total more than $18 million in anticipated project costs.
The Round VIII grant recipients were announced on April 30, 2014 by the Texas Historical Commission at its quarterly meeting. The communities to receive emergency grant funds in Round VIII are the counties of Callahan, Dickens, Dimmit, Houston, Hunt, Jefferson, Karnes, Lamar, Lee, Limestone, Lipscomb, Lynn, Polk, Rains, San Saba, Upshur, Wilson and the city of Hidalgo. A total of $5,906,955 was awarded by including reallocated and reserve program funds from previous grant cycles.
The Round VIII emergency grants will address serious building deficiencies including fire and electrical hazards; water leaks in spaces where records are stored; major structural failures of stairs, walls and foundations; replacement of inefficient modern windows; masonry repairs and roof replacement.
Many of the state’s more than 230 historic courthouses are in disrepair due to insufficient funding for building care and maintenance. There are 76 participants in the THCPP whose needs for additional program funds are as yet unmet.
Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program Round VIII Grant Recipients
Callahan County: $450,000 grant award for the complete replacement of the building’s piecemeal electrical system and replacement of badly deteriorated wood windows to avoid imminent interior damage.
Dickens County: $450,000 grant award for a building stabilization project including foundation repair, new steel framing for the second floor, repairs to the roof, an elevator, HVAC system replacement, and electrical work. The second floor is unoccupied due to structural instability.
Dimmit County: $450,000 grant award for foundation waterproofing to rectify water leaks in the basement where records are currently stored. The project also involves masonry repairs, window replacement and minor repairs to interior plaster.
Hidalgo, City of: $450,000 grant award for all work to stabilize, restore and preserve the building including masonry restoration, reconstruction of the second floor and tower, and a total interior restoration. The entire building is not currently occupiable due to its condition.
Houston County: $89,182 grant award for complete replacement of new built-up roof with a new roofing system to resolve long-term water leaks, high humidity and associated damage to interior plaster walls and ceilings.
Hunt County: $450,000 grant award to correct the catastrophic structural failure of the two main entrance stairs and includes complete rebuilding of these monumental terra cotta staircases.
Jefferson County: $450,000 grant award for replacement of 30-year-old fire detection and alarm system. The lack of a fully operational system impacts safe egress from this 14-story building.
Karnes County: $450,000 grant award for removal of the remaining tile roof and replacement with a new slate roof and reinforced structural roof framing. The building is currently unoccupied due to structural problems, as well as roof-related bat infestation and mold.
Lamar County: $315,980 grant award for repointing the brick and terra cotta exterior masonry, window improvements, repair of interior plaster damage and painting.
Lee County: $450,000 grant award for above-grade repairs to masonry, doors, windows and interior finishes affected by structural movement which was recently addressed by foundation stabilization work.
Limestone County: $41,103 grant award for repairs to all the main entrance stairs and damage to the balustrade at the roof of the building.
Lipscomb County: $450,000 grant award to remove drafty, poor quality aluminum replacement windows and install new wood windows to provide a barrier to the cold winter winds and a better working environment.
Lynn County: $179,204 grant award for replacement of the building’s electrical system with a new system to avoid the potential fire hazards of the current system as well as temporary restraints for loose terra cotta masonry.
Polk County: $203,353 grant award for replacement of the existing roof and with a new roof and repair of loose and missing sections of the roof parapet and cast stone balustrade.
Rains County: $14,870 grant award for small remedial repairs to windows to address water intrusion.
San Saba County: $449,750 grant award for replacement of the original electrical system which is seriously defective. The project also includes stair and sidewalk repairs for pedestrian safety.
Upshur County: $113,513.50 grant award for replacement of the roofing at the building’s upper level and foundation waterproofing to address long-standing water infiltration problems.
Wilson County: $450,000 grant award for foundation reinforcement, replacement of eroded brick to stabilize the building, window repairs and other building rehabilitation work necessary to safely reoccupy the building, which was vacated due to structural problems in 2012.