FRANKLIN Its taken 13 months, but today the 132-year-old Robertson County Courthouse is in its final stages of construction and rehabilitation.
“This went to the original 1880s trusses; the concrete exterior, even the masonry was restored and the defects in the stone on the exterior were rehabilitated,” said Robertson County Judge Jan Roe.
Robertson County Judge Jan Roe says the county got permission from the Texas Historic Commission in 2008 to restore the courthouse to what it originally looked like.
“Once we got permission from the Texas Historic Commission we began the planning process for the demolition of the Annex building and the old women's jail,” Roe explained. “The annex had to be completed first and approved first by THC for construction before we could begin demolition abatement and rehabilitation of the courthouse. We had to have a place to put everybody while we did the restoration and try to keep all of the functions of the county on the square.”
It's one of the oldest and longest standing courthouses in the state of Texas and after asbestos was found inside, county leaders say the potential hazardous risk is just one of the many reasons that fueled the major renovations.
“The windows to every entry door in every office door in the building had asbestos between the layers in the glass and the pipes,” Roe explained. “All those issues were covered and weren't exposed to the public but the restrictions had become so burdensome over the years that they had to be addressed.”
Roe says the price tag for the renovations cost $5M, and despite having to initially spend $900,000 in abatement and demolitions on what was deemed hazardous material, currently the project is nearly $200,000 under budget.
Each year, five courthouses are renovated to THC standards. Many County Judges have opted away from that program for many different reasons including loss of space due to the nature of THC's restoration criteria.
“We wanted our courthouse to function for the people as a whole and our negotiations including an agreement that the annex building connect directly to the historic courthouse and function as one and I believe we are the only courthouse in Texas that has been allowed that dispensation,” said Roe.
The historic courthouse will be open for business the first week of February. Robertson County is also restoring its historic jail, which is a $1.4M project. It should be completed by the end of March.
“We care about our history and we care about our county,” added Roe. “We care about the appearance and the function of our county government and we want our people, our constituents, our citizens to be proud to live here and we want people driving through to say 'Oh my gosh.'”