County Seat: Richmond * County Population: 858,902 (2020 Census Estimate)
The Fort Bend County Courthouse, originally built in 1908, was saved from demolition by a single vote of Commissioners Court over 30 years ago and continues to be used as a functional courthouse today. The county first partially restored this historic courthouse to its original neoclassical or “Texas Renaissance” style in 1981, employing Ray Bailey Architects. The project included restoration of the public spaces and the district courtroom to original conditions, including replicating light fixtures and reconstructing the courtroom balcony based on information derived from period photographs.
The county more extensively restored and rehabilitated the historic courthouse in 2012 with the removal of the 1957 additions and the rehabilitation of the 1935 addition, which was designed by the original architect, C.H. Page & Bros. Paint analysis was conducted throughout the building to determine original paint colors and finishes in public spaces. Original door configurations were reconstructed, and a modern Commissioners Courtroom was added on the second floor.
While the project involved initial Texas Historical Commission funding for building programming, the $5.8 million design and construction costs were raised through public and private funding sources; Bailey was again the architect, and Phoenix 1 Restoration and Construction was the contractor. This funding allowed the courthouse to be brought into code compliance with fire sprinklers, a modernized elevator, and ADA-accessible restrooms. Original plaster ceilings were once again unveiled while introducing a new HVAC system. Electrical and plumbing systems were sensitively built into existing and concealed chases without changing the original configuration of the courthouse.
Fort Bend County’s rehabilitation returned the exterior of the courthouse and its public spaces to its original character as a Texas courthouse, but with all the modern amenities and technologies developed since the building was constructed.
County Commissioners, courthouse staff, VIPS, and the community celebrated with a rededication ceremony in 2014, exactly 105 years after the date of the original dedication on Jan. 19, 1909.
A few local attractions and events in Fort Bend County include the Brazos Bend State Park, where oak trees, lakes, and wildlife are plentiful on the 4,897 acres of Brazos River bottomlands; the Fort Bend County Fair and Livestock Show, which includes a 10-day extravaganza of food, rides, auctions, exhibits, dancing, and music; and the award-winning Fort Bend County Museum, where exhibits interpret more than 100 years of history. In addition, the George Ranch Historical Park shares with visitors the compelling drama of four generations of Texas ranchers; the George Observatory offers the largest telescope in the nation available for public use; and the historical Morton Cemetery, founded in 1825, contains the graves of many of Fort Bend’s early pioneers.
Bailey Architects contributed to this article.