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Mark In Texas History: Polk County Courthouse restoration ‘a long time coming’

Published: May. 22, 2021 at 4:09 PM CDT
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POLK COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - Polk County has two historical markers in downtown Livingston next door to each other, one of which is getting a makeover.

The 1905 Courthouse Annex was built to alleviate overcrowding in the 1884 courthouse. But structural failures to the building in the 1970s forced the county to vacate it and add bracing supports in the 1980s. In 1998, the roof and foundation were repaired. Historical hopefuls had desires for more restoration. The original lampposts and cornerstone are stored in the building pending further restoration. Next door is the Polk County Courthouse, which was built in 1924. It is the fifth courthouse for the county. It originally included an auditorium, library, American Legion Hall and post office. Those were replaced in later years by administrative and judicial offices.

It’s been nearly 100 years since that courthouse was erected and now it’s ready for a $10 million renovation.

”I am thrilled to pieces, as is obviously our Historical Commission because it’s a long time coming.” said Project Reviewer Greta Wilhelm.

Wilhelm said this project features exterior and interior restorations, including restoring the original size and look of the district courtroom with its balcony.

”There will also be work to replace and upgrade the HVAC and electrical systems that will improve comfort and safety in the building. There will be improvements to accessibility and making sure everything is code compliant,” she said.

The funding comes from The Texas Historical Commission and the county, who has been saving for this for 20 years.

”There’s also economic development value whenever people have restored courthouses. It amazes me how many people come to our courthouse because it’s on their bucket list to see courthouses. I think when we’re done, and they see what the restoration is going to look like, then they’re going to recognize there is some value to it.”

Murphy said she is hoping the courthouse will be fully restored by its 100th birthday in 20-23.

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