With tender loving care in 2018, Shelby County's Historic 1885 Courthouse retains its prominence
The Historic 1885 Shelby County Courthouse and related structures on the downtown Center square received some much needed tender loving care in 2018.
The old courthouse building, the bandstand and structure housing the Daughters of the Republic of Texas offices and archives have each benefitted from exterior upgrades this past year, according to Shelby County Judge Allison Harbison.
“I'm just so proud of our downtown and the preservation going on,” she said. With plans the city has to makeover streets, sidewalks, parking and other aspects of the downtown square the best may be yet to come.
“We're working hand-in-hand with the city (of Center) on their streetscape project,” Harbison said.
Combined with the effort to spruce up the historic courthouse, grounds and out buildings, Harbison said downtown Center should become more of an historic tourist draw for visitors.
“With the courthouse as the crown jewel, downtown really has the wow factor,” she said.
Harbison was quick to note the work to give the 1885 Courthouse a facelift in 2018 was a joint effort of the city and the county. Through the Center Industrial Development Foundation the city was able to provide a $120,000 grant for the project with the county funding the other $20,000 of the $140,000 project.
“All that brick had to be cleaned by hand,” Harbison said. “You can't power wash it or it will crumble and fall apart.”
She said Marsh Water Proofing of San Augustine was the contractor on the exterior facelift.
“They had to use a biodegradable solution that was approved by the Texas Historical Commission, which provided the county with an antiquities permit for the project,” Harbison said. Other partners in the square's upgrade included the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service with landscaping help from county 4-H members and plants provided by Mark Carpenter of the Lilly Farm nursery.
“With all the rain we had it took longer than I would have liked but I think it came out looking pretty good,” she said. In a separate project both the bandstand and the structure housing the Daughters of the Republic of Texas also received repairs, painting and a facelift.
That part project was completed this fall in conjunction with the Shelby County Historical Commission.
Looking toward the future, Harbison said she would like to see efforts to use the old county records building on the grounds of the Historic Courthouse renovated. The county and Shelby County Historical Commission have had preliminary discussions of moving forward with effort to get the Shelby County Museum moved into the building.
“It's a solid, well built building with good bones and lots of potential,” Harbison said. Unfortunately, part of the expense of bringing new life to the structure will require moving restrooms from upstairs to the first floor and making access in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act for handicapped accessibility.
Harbison said she actually worked in the building as a clerk in the 1980s.
“It would really be great if we could be able to use it again,” she said.
Please see the complete story, photos in the Jan. 2-3, 2019 print edition of The Light and Champion
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