County courthouses were important parts of their communities. They were the center not only for government, but for community events and commerce. For many counties, they were the first permanent structure built. Entire towns grew up around the courthouses and their squares, and these centers were important pockets of density in an otherwise rural environment.
Texas has more historic courthouses than any other state. There are more than 240 courthouses that are at least 50 years old, with 80 of them constructed prior to the turn of the 20th century.
Inadequate maintenance and weather-related damage led to significantly deteriorated conditions for many of these grand structures. In the late 1990s, The Texas Historical Commission (THC) documented the condition of 50 of the state’s oldest courthouses and came to the realization that counties lacked the resources to adequately preserve the buildings for future generations.In 1998, Texas county courthouses were added to the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered Places list. The Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program (THCPP), the largest preservation grant program ever initiated by a state government, was created in response to this issue. This nationally recognized preservation program has begun the process of restoring the state’s most treasured historic landmarks as well as updating them to meet modern building codes. This can include projects such as adding air conditioning or features to make the courthouses more accessible to those with disabilities.
Texas Society of Architects took a look at the importance of preserving the courthouses and their storied place in history. The Society turned to Texas State Representative Andrew Murr and Brantley Hightower, AIA. With their input and insight, we produced two videos outlining the urgent need to fund courthouse preservation in Texas.