Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Restoration to begin shortly on Comal County Courthouse

This will be some undertaking.

Its a beautiful building and its restoration will bring it back to its original luster.

Though it will make court somewhat difficult for a while it will be worth the trouble.

Courthouse renovations to be 'dramatic'
A worn, black-and-white photograph shows the Comal County Courthouse standing virtually alone in downtown New Braunfels.

It’s the beginning of the 20th century, before cars whirled around a busy circle in Main Plaza or towering oak trees and a bandstand welcomed visitors to New Braunfels.

The carefully sculpted limestone monument was slimmer than it is now, before modern additions and expansions were built on as the county continued to grow.

And though it’s a grainy, more than century-old snapshot, it might provide the most accurate view of what the facility will look like in the future when the county’s courthouse restoration project is complete.

The massive effort to restore the courthouse back to its 1898 condition is set to begin by April.

It’s a more than $8 million project, and it’s expected to take two years to renovate, refurbish and rehabilitate one of the New Braunfels’ most recognizable landmarks.

When complete, the courthouse is expected mirror what courthouse architect J. Reily Gordon originally designed in 1898.

And do that, almost all of the non-original portions of the building will be demolished, according to County Engineer Tom Hornseth. That includes the modern skybridge connecting the courthouse to the annex, as well as the old Comal County Jail space, and another portion on the north side of the building that was added onto the courthouse after the original construction.

Removing the additions, Hornseth said, will uncover other columned entrances like the one that faces Main Plaza, that have been long-buried by construction.

“It’s going to be a dramatic change,” Hornseth said.

The interior also will see a nearly complete re-building, as the county looks to both modernize amenities and restore its historic features.

All of the building’s plumbing and wiring will be replaced, and a new air-conditioning system will be installed. An underground tunnel will be built underneath the courthouse that will connect to the annex building.

The district courtroom will be restored to its original appearance, and all of the interior masonry, finish and windows will be replaced to better resemble the original.

The construction will be funded by a recently awarded $3.4 million grant from the Texas Historic Commission, as well as more than $5 million in certificates of obligation issued by county commissioners in 2008.

“It’s a huge project,” said County Commissioner Jan Kennady. “It’s a tremendous undertaking that I think will have even more tremendous results at the end.”