Friday, February 25, 2011

Investments in Heritage

Brantley Hightower
TSA Publications Committee, Chair
Lake|Flato, San Antonio

In 1999 the Texas Legislature created the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program (THCPP) that charged the Texas Historical Commission with devising a process by which individual counties could apply for grants to execute appropriate restorative work. In the 12 years that have passed since its inception, the results of the program have been remarkable. In all, 138 grants have been awarded to 82 counties. By the end of 2011, a total of 55 courthouses will have been rededicated following complete restoration funded through THCPP grants.

With Texas' looming budget shortfall in the neighborhood of $25 billion, the future of the popular program is unclear. In his State of The State address on Sept. 8, 2010, Governor Rick Perry went so far as to call for the elimination of the Texas Historical Commission in its entirety.

The following images show some of the more remarkable transformations brought about by the THCPP. The images attest to both the value of the program and the critical need for the Texas Historical Commission to oversee our state’s unique historical heritage.

Wharton County Courthouse
The 1889 courthouse by Eugene Heiner was significantly “modernized” in the 1930s and 1940s when the exterior brick was encased in stucco, additions built, and the tower, clock, and other significant roof elements were removed. The interior and exterior of the courthouse were restored in 2007 by Bailey Architects in the most extensive project in the THCPP.

(before and after image courtesy Bailey Architects)

Milam County Courthouse
Completed in 1892 and designed by Larmour and Watson, the Milam County Courthouse stood as a fine example of Renaissance Revival Courthouse design. The tower and mansard roofs were removed in the 1930s. TWC Architects oversaw restoration efforts that were completed in 2002 including the central clock tower reconstruction,Victorian floor tile imported from England, and unique district courtroom restoration.
(before image courtesy TxDOT and after image courtesy TWC Architects)

Llano County Courthouse
1892 was a busy year for Larmour and Watson for it also saw the completion of another of their county courthouse designs in Llano. The building’s unique asymmetrical tower was simplified and shortened in 1913. Volz and Associates restored it along with the rest of the courthouse to its original configuration in 2002.

(before image courtesy TxDOT and after image courtesy Larry D. Moore)

Bosque County Courthouse
In 1886 J. J. Kane and Roy E. Lane created one of the finest examples of gothic courthouse design in the state. An unfortunate modernization similar to the one in Wharton saw its tower and ornate roof elements removed in 1935. ArchiTexas undid that damage with their 2007 renovation.
(before image courtesy TxDOT and after image courtesy ArchiTexas)

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