Special to The Leader
The Orange Leader
NEWTON, Texas —
The Newton County Courthouse was rededicated on December 8, 2012, following a devastating fire and lengthy restoration made possible with more than $4 million in grant funds from the Texas Historical Commission (THC) through its award-winning Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program.
On August 4, 2000 a catastrophic fire attributed to faulty electrical wiring in the bell tower reduced the interior of the historic building to a pile of rubble, although the brick masonry walls survived. The previous month, Newton County officials had submitted a master plan to the THC for restoration of the 1902 landmark in hopes of obtaining a Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program grant. Just days before the fire, the county learned the plan had been approved. As a result, full architectural documentation was available to rebuild the structure to its original grandeur.
Work to restore the building to its 1937 appearance, when an annex and exterior plaster were added, began in 2002 with an emergency grant administered by the THC. The bell tower, where the fire began, was raised once again in May 2009. The original 19th-century Second Empire building was constructed by Texas contractors Martin and Moody and featured the clock tower, mansard roof, and corner quoins. The full interior and exterior restoration includes these features as well as all new units, including a geothermal ground-source mechanical system.
“The restoration of this courthouse is an example of Newton County’s determination and can-do spirit,” said THC Executive Director Mark Wolfe. “Tragedy has turned into triumph for the citizens of Newton County. The THC strives to save the real places that tell the real stories of Texas, and is proud to have partnered with Newton County in helping to save this historic landmark.”
Since 1999, nearly $247 million has been awarded to more than 80 counties for the preservation of their county courthouses, and the program has served as an important economic engine for Texas.
Courthouse restorations have generated more than 9,600 jobs throughout Texas, more than $22 million in state taxes, and an additional $21 million in local taxes. The 82nd Texas Legislature included $20 million in bond funding to continue future grant rounds of the program, and the THC will seek continued legislative support for future grant rounds.
“We’re excited with the overwhelming response the program has received throughout Texas in communities large and small,” said THC Architecture Division Director Sharon Fleming. “We have laid a strong foundation on which to build an even stronger program.”
The Newton County Courthouse is a State Archeological Landmark, a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program was established in 1999 by Gov. George W. Bush and the Texas Legislature to restore Texas’ county courthouses to their original splendor and make them safe, functional, and a source of pride for Texas communities. The THC created and administers the program.
For more information about the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, visit www.thc.state.tx.us, or contact the THC’s Architecture Division at 512.463.6094.
The THC is the state agency for historic preservation. The agency administers a variety of programs to preserve the archeological, historical, and cultural resources of Texas.