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I am writing as a citizen of Navarro County and as a charter member of the Corsicana Preservation Foundation. This letter is in regards to the acceptance of the grant from the Texas Historical Commission for the restoration and renovation of the Navarro County Courthouse.
Earlier this year, through the efforts of State Rep. Byron Cook, the Texas State Historical Commission allocated funding to Navarro County for the restoration and preservation of our courthouse. This grant has been available to Navarro County for several years; however, due to economic conditions of the state budget, the funds were not available until this year.
There has been much discussion and debate in the commissioners court about this project, since it would include some matching funding. This has resulted in the delay of accepting the grant from the state. However, the Historical Commission has now informed the county that if action is not taken by the July 23 meeting of the county commissioners, the availability of the grant and funds will be withdrawn. This would be a travesty for the citizens of Navarro County for the following reasons.
This Courthouse was designed in 1905 by architect J. E. Flanders and described by the Texas Historical Commission as a Beaux Arts landmark. In summary, the grant states “while the exterior features classical ornament and a remarkable domed clock tower, the interiors make this project unique. The three-story rotunda, topped by a stained glass skylight, is surrounded by marble wainscots, terrazzo flooring and scagliola columns. We all are familiar with stained glass and terrazzo floors, but the scagliola columns are not as common place.
Scagliola is a technique for producing stucco columns, sculptures, and other architectural elements that resemble inlays in marble and semi-precious stones. The scagliola technique came into fashion in 17th-century Tuscany as an effective substitute for costly marble inlays. Scagliola is a composite inlay technique mimicking marble, rarely found in the United States.
There are only four known examples of the scagliola technique in government buildings in the U.S. — the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka, Kan.; Allen County Courthouse in Ft. Wayne, Ind.; the old El Paso County Courthouse in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and the Navarro County Courthouse in Corsicana.
According to the report generated for Navarro County by Jhonny Langer, an expert in the process of identifying historic structure and their materials, in cooperation with the Texas Historical Commission, our scagliola columns are one of the jewels of the Navarro County Courthouse, but are in extreme need of repair and restoration. To this extent, the four columns outside this room on the first floor of the building have already been cleaned and restored.
The report and the first phase of preserving the scagliola columns was funded by donations from private citizens and the Corsicana Preservation Foundation in the amount of nearly $25,000, exhibiting the support and interest that the citizens of Navarro County have in this project.
There have been countless studies and reports on the benefits that historical preservation and restoration can and does have upon a community. Just to mention a few — Increased tourism in the community which provides increased revenue to local businesses and the sales tax base; jobs and wages during the restoration process; restoration on the governmental and civic level will encourage local citizens to do the same with their own properties (we have already seen evidence of this in the restoration of homes in the Carriage Distinct along Third and Fourth Avenues and in various buildings downtown on Beaton, Commerce and Main); the city has recognized the importance of this process through the adopting of the “Downtown Overlay” which provides guidelines to businesses and individuals to maintain the original integrity and historical look of buildings in the downtown area; this process is administered by the “Landmark Commission” which is a part of the Main Street Project; and historical preservation and restoration produces pride in your community and heritage
The Corsicana Preservation Foundation is and will be continually involved with the process both financially and educationally. We have committed to continuing fund raising projects that will be dedicated to the restoration expenses. In cooperation with Dr. Diane Frost and the CISD, we are organizing educational and awareness programs in the schools’ curriculum about the history of Navarro County, the courthouse itself, and the various architectural features which are a part of it. There is also a fund raising project entitled “Change for the Courthouse” underway in each individual school where the students have the opportunity to contribute their “change” toward the courthouse restoration.
There is no need to tell you the citizens of Navarro County about the current state of this building in terms of its need for updates in technology and security, not to mention necessary repairs and maintenance. Coupling these needs with the needs and benefits of restoring the courthouse to its original splendor, it only makes sense to utilize the funds available from the state to help in the financing of the project. It is my understanding that these funds will probably never be available to us again.
Recently at the Wednesday Rotary Club meeting, we were discussing the various aspects of the Courthouse restoration project. In concluding the discussion, one member asked “How can we not support and fund this project?”
I in turn ask the same question.
How can we as citizens of Navarro County not support and fund this project?
I urge each and every person reading this letter to contact their county commissioner and urge him to vote July 23 to accept the grant from the Texas Historical Commission and to fund and proceed with the restoration of the Navarro County Courthouse.
Hugh A. Stroube