By Elsa Maxey
In spite of not having received a state grant for the county court’s restoration, which Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert terms to have been for “reasons beyond our comprehension,” the county is moving forward with the project. Last week Commissioners Court approved a contract with the George Foundation for a $2 million grant for restoring the historic, three-story rotunda courthouse. It has been actively used since its construction back in 1909, until its offices and courtrooms were moved to the new Justice Center two miles away less than a year ago.
The reasons for the project’s denial from the Texas Historical Commission are being questioned by the county. The state commission had previously granted the county funds for planning and design phases of this project. In February during his state of the county address, Judge Hebert announced the state agency’s decision, which would delay the renovation and possibly cause structural deterioration to the iconic courthouse and increase the cost of restoring it.
But last month, Judge Hebert requested support from the George Foundation for the project which is projected to cost $4.2 million, according to reports. This year the county will receive one million dollars from the foundation to be supplemented by a half a million dollars during each of the next two subsequent years.
The Fort Bend County courthouse on Jackson Street is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. A star in its own right, it has been filmed many times for scenes in movies and TV shows. Documentation indicates that this old courthouse was actually the fifth one constructed in Fort Bend County. It is the only one still standing and built to serve a county with a population that was a little over 18,000 when it originated. With the renovation it is headed towards, preservation of the courthouse will have it joining the new Justice Center, a symbolic offspring, both serving the county’s current and future generations.