Fifteen Historic Texas Courthouses Receive $20 million

By County magazine

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The Texas Historical Commission (THC) announced grant recipients for Round X of the nationally recognized Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program (THCPP) during its April 27 quarterly meeting in San Felipe. The THC awarded matching grants totaling $19,713,303 to 15 counties to aid in preservation of their historic courthouses, including four grants to undertake full restorations. 

Falls, Hunt, Marion and Menard counties received major construction grant awards, each between $1.2 and $5.8 million, for full restoration projects. 

Camp, Coleman, Goliad, Kimble, Limestone, Milam and Orange counties received emergency grants, from $60,012 to $313,367 to address critical issues including structural failures of beams and exterior cladding, and water intrusion through windows and basements. 

Callahan, Polk and Van Zandt counties received planning grants to be applied toward the production of construction documents for a future grant application for a full restoration of their buildings. Refugio County received a $450,000 emergency planning grant following major damage from Hurricane Harvey in 2017. 

The grants were made possible through a $20.2 million appropriation by the 85th Texas Legislature. The THC received applications from 17 counties requesting $52.6 million for projects totaling $95.4 million. The agency determined grant awards by assessing 21 criteria including the building’s age, endangerment, historical designations, and the applicants’ proposals and support for the project. 

“The goal of the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program is to positively impact as many communities as possible by revitalizing historic downtowns, bolstering pride through the restoration of a treasured landmark, and creating a safer, more functional building to serve its citizens,” said THC Architecture Division Director Sharon Fleming, AIA. There are still 35 applicants awaiting full restoration funding after receiving planning and emergency grants and another 39 program participants that have not yet received any funding at all, with a total outstanding need of just over $400 million. 

Approaching its 20-year anniversary, the program has attracted more than 134 participants and awarded more than $290 million to counties. Courthouse preservation projects have created more than 10,650 jobs in Texas and generated more than $555 million in revenue. Restored courthouses reinvigorate historic downtowns and promote heritage tourism, a $7.3 billion industry in Texas. 

“By revitalizing Texas’ historic county courthouses, we help make a significant economic impact on communities,” said THC Chairman John Nau III. 

Texas has the most historic courthouses (more than 240) in the U.S., which were deemed national treasures by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and collectively included twice on the Trust’s Most Endangered Places list. 

 “The historic county courthouses of Texas are renowned for good reason,” said THC Executive Director Mark Wolfe. “We remain committed to restoring every historic courthouse, maximizing the significant economic and community benefits these iconic buildings provide.”