$5.8 million restored courthouse in downtown Richmond readies to open

By Elsa Maxey 

Fort Bend County’s fully restored courthouse with Lady Justice at its peak

will be substantially complete in just a couple of days, by Thanksgiving announces the county. Timely because it’s something to be thankful about this season since the massive renovation effort of the 103 year old building began over two years ago in May 2011.

County Judge Bob Hebert and Roy L. Cordes, Jr., the County Attorney, along with their staffs consisting of 21 employees and a bailiff, will be moving into the restored courthouse next month. Ann Werlien, Administrative and Budgets Manager, also said that the local Historical Commission will have an office in the building as well.

The newly refurbished building will be where the regular Commissioners Court meetings will be held with the first one set to take place on December 17, advises Werlien. Currently, commissioners court meets in the Travis Building across the street from the courthouse, where it has held its meetings since about the mid-1990’s. Those meetings are open to the public and are held three times a month.

The courthouse’s rehabilitation started in January included the removal of two one-story add-ons on both sides of the building’s entrance on Liberty Street. This has left the courthouse looking as it did in 1935. The preservation of this historic landmark built in 1908 involved using original paint colors, refurbishing windows that allow natural lighting from all sides of the building, and restoring original terrazzo floors, when possible.

Updates to the courthouse also include new heating and cooling systems, fire control sprinklers, and the replacement of old roofing systems. Additionally, the building was updated for present-time wiring with electrical components and fittings to support the county’s operations. In spite of the good condition of the dome, the county reports that as part of the renovation, it required sealing joints and an acid wash to recondition the patina.

The total cost of the project is reported at $5.8 million, which former “Star” publisher, Bev Carter guessed correctly when she said it would cost well over $5 million, when preliminary budgeting in January was at $4.35 m with the final cost still pending. Funding for the project includes a $271,000 planning grant from the Texas Historical Commission, and the George Foundation contributed $2 million for the restoration. When the courthouse was built in 1908, it cost $75,000 and the land was purchased for $6,750.

Werlien said “a formal dedication will be planned for January 2014, where again the Historical Commission will conduct tours for the general public.” The Christmas Tree Lighting indoors in the rotunda will be on December 13, at 2:30 p.m., “and a tour for the employees will be conducted by the historical commission members after the lighting,” she said.

The renovation of the courthouse represents a preservation of Fort Bend County’s rich history with the courthouse serving as one of its most prized assets.

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