THC awards second round of courthouse preservation grants

The Texas Historical Commission (THC) announced Round II grant recipients of the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program at its quarterly meeting on Oct. 27 in Brenham. Commissioners awarded matching grants totaling nearly $7 million to 28 Texas counties to help preserve their historic county courthouses. The counties to receive funds in Round II of the program are Archer, Bee, Brooks, Cameron, Concho, Crosby, Dallas, Denton, Dimmit, Falls, Goliad, Harrison, Hood, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Lamar, Lavaca, Leon, Maverick, Newton, Nueces, Parker, Potter, Rains, Val Verde, Wharton, Wheeler and Williamson. THC Commission members opted to award smaller grants to more counties in order to get as many as possible started on the preservation of their historic courthouses. The grant money will go in part towards developing architectural plans for courthouse renovations with the exception of Newton County, which will use the grant to begin stabalizing and rebuilding their courthouse after a tragic fire this summer. Pending additional funding from the Texas Legislature in the upcoming session, the THC plans to continue the program with several more rounds of grant opportunities. “We had an overwhelming response with 73 counties applying for the second round of funding,” said THC Executive Director Larry Oaks. “It’s inspiring to see so many communities enthusiastic about preservation. Our goal in Round II was to assist as many counties as we could with the funds that remained. Clearly the need is so great that we presently have 99 counties needing more than $201 million for courthouse restoration projects.” Gov. George W. Bush and the Texas Legislature created the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program in 1999 with an initial appropriation of $50 million. The THC distributed $42.4 million in matching grants to 19 counties in Round I of the program in May, and the Round II grants mark the last of the original funds. “Preserving historic courthouses demonstrates a long-term vision on the part of a community and its elected officials,” said THC Chairman John L. Nau, III. “This program represents one of the largest and most far-reaching historic preservation initiatives ever conceived by a state government. Texans can be proud of these efforts to preserve our state’s rich history, but the need is still great.” Texas courthouses have been symbols of strength, pride, progress and democracy for more than 150 years. However, many of the state’s more than 220 historic courthouses are in disrepair due to insufficient funding for building care and maintenance. Their plight gained national attention in 1998 when the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Texas courthouses to its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. “This groundbreaking program exists because people love historic courthouses and understand the benefits of restoring them to their original grandeur,” said THC Architecture Director Stan Graves. “We are excited about the overwhelming response the program received from Texans and are more convinced than ever of the importance of preserving these Texas treasures for future generations to enjoy.” Contingent on additional funding in the upcoming legislative session, the THC plans to continue the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program several more rounds to assist as many historic courthouses as possible. For more information, including the list of grant recipients and the grant amounts, please visit the THC web site at www.thc.state.tx.us.

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