HISTORIC HARRIS COUNTY COURTHOUSE IS RESTORED

On August 23, 2011, Harris County officials, historians, downtown office workers and local citizens gathered for the dedication and ribbon cutting for the grand re-opening of the historic 1910 Harris County Courthouse in downtown Houston.

The courthouse square was designated by the Allen Brothers when the city was first platted in 1837.  Harris County officials at the time wanted a large, grand structure, significant of the county’s importance in Texas.  The courthouse was opened in 1910 on the same site as the 1884 courthouse which was demolished earlier because it was too small.

Designed in the popular Beaux-Arts style, the 1910 courthouse featured Corinthian columns on all four sides.   At the front entrance was a grand monumental staircase, and the interior public area featured a large rotunda and circular staircase.   Building materials included Texas pink granite and light brown St. Louis brick, with extensive use of marble on the inside.

Over the years Harris County outgrew the building and larger structures nearby began to house county offices and district courts. Drinking troughs for horses on the San Jacinto Street side were removed in 1941, and in 1954 the historic courthouse underwent extensive alterations in an effort to modernize it.  The grand staircase at the Fannin Street entrance was demolished, and inside the atrium was eliminated and covered up to add more usable square footage.  The courtrooms were downsized and balconies eliminated.

By 2000 the building was in need of major renovation and upgrading.  Harris County decided to completely restore the beloved building to its original appearance and make it a landmark for the historic area of downtown Houston. The false floors were removed and the atrium was restored with a beautiful stained glass window lit by sunlight from the building’s dome and skylight.  The pinnacle was replaced on top of the dome and the courtroom balconies restored.   The ornamental plaster detailing has been carefully redone and all the marble, which came from a Georgia quarry, has been replaced in the lobby and hallways.

The old courthouse seems to glow with a sense of pride and dignity in its historic role as a “temple of justice.”

Texas historian Nancy Burch attended the ceremonies and stated, “The building is beautiful.  I think it’s a great thing when they bring these historic buildings back to their original elegance.”

The historic 1910 Harris County Courthouse, which saw some of the most colorful criminal trials and major civil lawsuits in Texas, will now house the 1st and 14th Courts of Appeals.

(Texas Foundation for the Arts, in association with Sunset Productions and Fast Cut Films, is producing a PBS television documentary about the history and the restoration of the 1910 Harris County Courthouse)

3 Comments…

  1. Michael Birrell says:

    great job Thanks mcb Class of 1957.

  2. Fred Simpson says:

    Great story,and this old building needed to be preserved. That was really a good picture of your arms and hands,probably one of your best pictures.

    See you this weekend………. let the good times roll and the big boats make their sweet sounds……

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  1. […] Texas Foundation for the Arts, in association with Sunset Productions and Fast Cut Films, is producing a PBS television documentary about the history and the restoration of the 1910 Harris County Courthouse. For more information about the Courthouse please visit http://www.discovertexashistory.com […]

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