Harris County Courthouse
The historic Harris County Courthouse was built in 1910 in a Beaux-Arts style as designed by Lang, Winchell & Barglebaugh. The county recently restored this temple of justice to its original 1910 condition and gave Texas’ 1stand 14th courts of appeal a new home with technological upgrades needed to support modern judicial processes. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this six-story building encompasses an entire city block in downtown Houston.
The $53.6 million restoration project included undoing past modernizations and returning the courthouse to its original grandeur, with PGAL as the lead architect and Vaughn Construction as general contractor.
Construction included asbestos/lead paint abatement, demolition of selective concrete and steel structures, restoration/replication of existing building elements, and interior contemporary construction. Historical restorations included mosaic floor tile patching/repairs, ornamental plaster recreation, and exterior masonry restoration.
The four main entries are accessed via exterior granite-clad staircases. Work for two staircases involved removing/replacing massive granite stones and demolishing/replacing concrete structures. The new concrete stair structures are clad with new granite to match other entrances. New mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems were also installed.
The exterior skin includes granite, buff-colored brick, terra cotta and limestone. Approximately 90 percent of the exterior was original, with 10 percent of the masonry restored or replicated. Work entailed complete exterior masonry cleaning, structural surveying, and restoration/replication of missing or deteriorated items. Rust-colored clay tile roofing and white thermoplastic polyolefin roofing replaced the existing modified bit roof. A 15-foot copper pinnacle caps the courthouse dome, which includes a new stained glass skylight in place of the original 1910 skylight.
The county rededicated this historic courthouse on Aug. 23. H – Information provided by Kerri D. Howell, Vaughn Construction.
Mills County Courthouse
The Mills County Courthouse was built in 1913 in a Classical Revival Style as designed by Henry Phelps. The temple of justice was recently restored to a selected time period of 1912-1920 in a $5.2 million project that included both interior and exterior preservation and reconstruction, as designed and constructed by 1113 Architects and J.C. Stoddard Construction, respectively.
The exterior preservation efforts included brick cleaning, mortar repointing, and limestone, cast stone, and copper ornament repair. In addition, the aluminum windows installed in the 1960s and 1970s were replaced with wood windows to match the originals. A new “cool” roof was installed adding an eco-friendly element to the restoration.
Interior work encompassed restoration of the district courtroom with the balcony, coffered plaster ceiling and ornament, renovation of the restrooms, and the construction of the original second floor shell space as a county court where the commissioners court now conducts meetings. In addition, wood opera seating was reconstructed for installation in the balcony. Restoration of the terrazzo floors, marble wainscot, ebony wood finishes, and colored plaster throughout the building has enhanced the overall appearance. A new electrical system, lighting, and fire alarm were also added.
Murals found at a men's room in the basement were conserved, and the room was changed to a public use to promote viewing of the historic advertisements.
The site, which had been highly renovated during the 1980s to include ornamental trees, shrubs, and brick walls, was restored to its more simple beginnings, which once again allows the courthouse to be viewed from the street.
Mills County rededicated its newly restored courthouse on Aug. 27. H – Information provided by Karalei Nunn, 1113 Architects
San Augustine County Courthouse
The San Augustine County Courthouse was built in 1927 in a Classical Revival style as designed by Shirley Simons. The county capitol was restored last year in a $4.3 million project, using Scott and Strong, Architects – Interiors, and J. E. Kingham Construction Co., Inc.
The comprehensive effort included installing the original green tile roof and replacing the aluminum windows with wood casement windows, painted green to match the roof. The building’s Leuders limestone exterior was cleaned and patched, and the sidewalks were repaired.
All mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire-protection systems were replaced to meet modern standards. A fire alarm system was also added to enhance public safety. Additional upgrades were made to the existing elevator, as well. In addition, the walls and trim were painted with historic paint colors to complement the existing terrazzo floors which were polished to their original luster.
The first floor county courtroom was reconstructed and renovated to a fully functioning courtroom. Improvements to the district courtroom included installation of a new acoustical ceiling and sound system. The historic woodwork of the judge and jury area was restored and reconstructed, and the public seating was repaired and refinished. Existing mechanical equipment from the original third floor gallery area was removed, and the gallery returned to serve as part of the courtroom. The original lighting was also restored, and several new fixtures were replicated using historic lighting catalogs as a guide.
The restored 1927 courthouse retains its original charm and grandeur, while serving the 21st century needs of San Augustine County.
The county and area visitors celebrated the rededication of this temple of justice on Nov. 10, 2010. H – Information provided by Scott and Strong, Architects – Interiors
Trinity County Courthouse
The Trinity County Courthouse was built in 1914 in a Beaux Arts style as designed by architects L. S. Greene of Galveston and C. H. Page and Brothers of Austin. Greene designed the east wing, a records storage vault constructed in 1908 on the side of a previous courthouse that was demolished soon after. Five years later, the new courthouse was added to the records storage vault. C. H. Page and Brothers had to “stretch” the building to the west to get the main entrance close to the center of the square. The design was not typical of work seen in their other courthouses throughout the state.
The county recently completed its courthouse restoration project, as designed and constructed by Michael Gaertner Architects and J.C. Stoddard Construction, respectively. Interestingly, Gaertner’s office is located across the street from the Galveston building where original architect L.S. Greene was located.
The long-awaited $5.25 million restoration has yielded copper front doors, wood and metal windows, pressed metal cornice, and a decorative balustrade. Interior features include terrazzo hallway floors with brick wainscoting, and a vaulted plaster ceiling and ornamental trim in the courtroom. The original 1914 colors include green and gold paints with an abundance of stained trim
The original vault door has disappeared and was recreated.
Trinity County rededicated its courthouse on July 22. H – Information provided by Michael Gaertner Architects
*** The featured restoration projects were part of the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program.