Courthouses need not remain empty … period!

I visited this week with a Northeast Texas county judge who is overseeing the restoration of a courthouse structure that he intends to reopen in its original splendor.

The work is being done in Bonham, the Fannin County seat. I am preparing a story for KETR-FM public radio on the project, so I won’t scoop myself with detail about that restoration effort.

I reminded the county judge, Randy Moore, about what happened to Randall County’s renovation of its historic courthouse. He knew all about it.

What happened in Canyon? The county obtained a historical preservation grant and used the money to restore the exterior of its 1909 courthouse. It finished that work, but along the way relocated all its government functions off-site.

The interior of that building remains empty. The outside looks great! It’s gorgeous. The county courthouse square is well-groomed. The area surrounding the square is full of businesses bustling with activity. There are antique shops, coffee shops, restaurants … you name it.

Despite all that success and the economic benefit that Canyon and Randall County have accrued from the project, I continue to wish that the county can find a feasible tenant who can occupy the courthouse structure.

Randy Criswell, the former Canyon city manager, told me once about a study the city did to determine whether it could relocate its City Hall in the historic courthouse. The city decided it could not. It was too costly.

My visit with the Fannin County judge, though, does restore my faith in a county’s commitment to retaining its courthouse functionality. To that end, I applaud Judge Moore’s strongly stated desire to ensure that Fannin County’s courthouse will be restored and reoccupied eventually, serving the county as its center of government.

I consider Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell to be a friend and I long have admired the work he has done to shore up the county’s economic health.

I also have admired his deal-making skill, as exhibited — for example — in what he has brought to the Texas Panhandle Veterans Memorial in south Amarillo next to where the county annex used to sit.

My hope for Randall County is that Judge Houdashell can work his magic again to get to the old courthouse structure in the square in Canyon occupied. It deserves the same quality of life that has come to the area surrounding the square.

One thought on “Courthouses need not remain empty … period!”

  1. In Harris County, the old courthouse now hosts the two Houston courts of appeals. Nothing else is in the structure. It’s an elegant building – a real landmark in a city that is known for tearing old stuff down.

    It would be cool to put the Amarillo Court of Appeals in the old Randall County Courthouse. There are plenty of reasons why that might not work – I understand that. It’s just an idea that occurs to me every time I set foot in Harris County’s magnificent old courthouse.

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