Texas Courthouse Restoration Funding

Posted by on Feb 6, 2015 in Journal
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Comal County Courthouse, New Braunfels

I recently spoke on behalf of VOH and the Texas Society of Architects before the Senate Finance Committee in support of funding for Texas courthouse restoration through the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program. My preparation for this hearing flowed so naturally that I thought I’d share it here as well.

“The focus of my testimony today is on the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program (THCPP), and my points support other valuable programs of the Texas Historical Commission such as the Texas Preservation Trust Fund, our State Historic Sites, the state tax incentives for rehabilitation, Recorded Texas Historic Landmarks, State Antiquities Landmarks, and the Heritage Tourism Program – they all tie together to create services and products that set the growth and success of our state within the context of our deep and rich heritage. 

Volz O’Connell Hutson has been the architect for the restoration of 8 courthouses funded through the THCPP since 1999; three were completed in phases as the local communities raised the matching funds. The completion of these projects has given me a perspective on the inherent value of the program and the impact it has made throughout the State. Retention and preservation of our built heritage is critical to the livelihood of our State in many ways: 

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A craftsman restores historic anaglypta at the Gonzales County Courthouse.

It promotes the development of specialized training and craftsmanship that is marketable to a variety of project types and raises the standards of quality in our State. At the outset of the program in 1999, craftsman emerged and developed high-level skill-sets appropriate for historic properties. The repair and maintenance of these existing structures also promotes sustainability. These massive structures were built to last; with the work completed due to this program, these buildings will continue for another generation.

It restores economic vitality to small towns and urban pockets across the State. Often when we begin a courthouse restoration in a smaller community like Gonzales or Llano or Clarendon or Del Rio, the local economy is depressed. We’ve seen city after city regain their economic health with the State’s investment into the restoration of their historic courthouses. 

It educates our children on our State’s history and heritage. The historic courthouses and churches of Texas are, by far, the most significant buildings in the 254 county seats across our State.  Generally speaking, the largest and grandest buildings of a community are a tangible expression of the values most important to our communities. The lessons learned at restored public buildings reinforce the capabilities and power of the Texas justice system.

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Comal County Commissioner’s Court in the newly restored courtroom

It facilitates and improves the administration of government, especially in economically depressed areas where deferred maintenance has far exceeded county budgets for years. Every building requires maintenance over time.  These buildings were constructed of quality materials using thoughtful design practices, and are an asset to every community.  However, new building systems, life safety and accessibility codes put new and necessary demands on the buildings, and it becomes challenging for small communities in particular to keep up.  We’ve seen this program provide invaluable assistance to communities across the state that has been instrumental to restore the vitality of these centers of justice.

 In the last biennium, funding was cut for this program at the end of the session – an action which stalled shovel-ready projects statewide. I urge you to restore funding to the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program at their requested level of $40 million or higher in this coming budget.

Thank you.”

I hope that everyone supports the programs of the Texas Historical Commission – they do great work throughout the State. – Tere