Texas courthouses are named on a list of the “11 Most Endangered Historic Places” in the U.S., released by The National Trust for Historic Preservation this morning.
Texas has 244 historic courthouses in the state – that’s the largest collection of county courthouses in the country. About 63 of them have been fully restored, including central Texas’ Williamson and Lee County courthouses, but more than 70 are still in need of serious repairs.
Texas courthouses on the whole were first placed on the list in 1998; the following year, the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program was created by Governor George W. Bush. Since its inception, the program has awarded nearly $247 million to 83 counties for the preservation of their courthouses.
Stan Graves is the director of the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program. He says Texas’ historic courthouses really represent the communities. “I think what’s special about them is that they exhibit an incredible optimism, in the 1890s, of what Texas would become and what their communities would become by building these magnificent buildings that have stood the test of time.”
A courthouse in Karnes County, south of Austin, is one of the courthouses in need of repair. It was built in 1824 and has several structural issues. Sue Butler Carter of the Karnes County Historical Commission says an unsightly 400 square foot addition to the building is part of the problem and needs to be removed. She says the addition “stripped the courthouse of quite a bit of its decoration, so to speak. It made it look – some people thought – more modern, but actually it took away the flavor of the original building.”
The endangered places list included historic U.S. Post Office buildings for the first time. The list also includes the birthplace of Malcolm X in Boston and boxing legend Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia. More than 230 sites have been on the list over its 25 year history – and only a handful of listed sites have been lost.