By Whitney Bayers, Texas Courthouse Stewardship Program Specialist

Each year, county officials and facility maintenance managers from across the state convene in Austin to participate in the Texas Courthouse Stewardship Workshop. The educational program was created in 2005 in conjunction with the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program (THCPP) to foster facility planning, budgeting, and technical training. The THCPP and local partners have made significant financial investments in restoring these historic landmarks, and the goal of the Texas Courthouse Stewardship Program is to prevent these buildings from falling back into disrepair.

In 2015, for the first time, the workshop hit the road, bringing courthouse stewardship to the far corners of the state. In July of that year, the Texas Courthouse Stewardship Program kicked off its regional workshop series in West Texas at the Jeff Davis County Courthouse in Fort Davis. A second regional workshop was hosted in October in the Panhandle at the Potter County Courthouse in Amarillo. By bringing this one-day workshop to various host counties, we are able to make workshop topics more region-specific, and we can reach a greater number of elected officials, facility managers, and County Historical Commission members who are unable to attend the annual workshop in Austin.

Both the regional workshop series and the annual workshop in Austin are generously sponsored by the Texas Land Title Association (TLTA).

Jeff Davis County First to Host a Regional Workshop

Picture of a courthouse
Attendees show their pride for historic Texas courthouses in front of the Jeff Davis County Courthouse in Fort Davis.

The pilot program in Fort Davis on July 23, 2015 was very successful, with participants from five of the seven counties with fully restored courthouses in the region, some of whom traveled as much as three hours for the event. Emulating the format of the annual workshop in Austin, the Fort Davis event kicked off with an evening reception the night before at Fort Davis National Historic Site.

The workshop took place in the restored Jeff Davis County Courthouse. Attendees received a warm welcome from Jeff Davis County Judge Jeannette Duer and TLTA representative Deanna Allen. THC Commissioner Pete Peterson was also in attendance and made some insightful remarks on the importance of the stewardship program. Special guest and former County Judge George Grubb gave a presentation on his experience during the restoration of the Jeff Davis County Courthouse, followed by a tour of the building.

Not a moment of the one-day workshop was wasted. A lunch session by Bob Underhill of Amerus Roofing in El Paso covered standing-seam metal roofs, a feature common to courthouses in the region. The afternoon continued with a session about many THC programs that could benefit the counties, including the Main Street and Certified Local Government programs. The workshop closed with a discussion between THC courthouse program staff and attendees about some of the technical maintenance issues facing courthouses in the area.

Moderne and Maintenance at the Potter County Courthouse

Picture of the interior of a courthouse
Mezzanine at the Potter County Courthouse in Amarillo.

After the success of the first regional workshop, we quickly set to planning a second program in the Panhandle at the restored Potter County Courthouse in Amarillo. It took place on October 21, 2015 and was just as popular as the first, with judges and facility managers from seven nearby counties in attendance. Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner gave a warm welcome and recalled some of her memories of the historic courthouse over the last 25 years she has worked for the county.

County Facilities Director Mike Head led our group on a personal tour of the beautiful 1932 Moderne courthouse later that morning. The photos featured here depict the mezzanine at the courthouse entrance and one of the courtrooms, both of which retain a remarkable amount of original detail. In the mezzanine, the marble wainscoting and terrazzo floors are original, as well as the geometric chandelier light fixture above the entrance. The courtroom retains original light fixtures as well, in addition to the judge’s bench and geometric patterned aluminum railing. The railing and fluted pilasters are very indicative of the Art Moderne style.

The day continued with a presentation by steel window expert Colbert Henning, and concluded with guided discussions on some of the more technical aspects of maintaining restored courthouses.

Picture of people standing inside of a courthouse
Courtroom at the Potter County Courthouse during a tour of the building.

So far, the regional programs have proved to be extremely successful and beneficial to counties that may not be able to attend the annual workshop in Austin. With this initiative, THCPP project reviewers can gain a better understanding of the issues courthouses face after restorations, and find new ways to support the counties in their stewardship efforts.