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Stephen F. Austin State University

Newton County Historical Courthouse (August 2013)

Newton County Historical Courthouse (August 2013)

Newton County Historical Courthouse
- By Jonnie Miller

In August of 2000, the Newton County Courthouse burned to the ground while a crowd of grieving Newton citizens watched. She had been a part of their lives since before any of them were born. When reconstruction began, it was with the oversight and aid of the Texas Historical Commission and took 12 years to complete. It is a replica of the 1904 courthouse.

The courthouse is a three-story second empire style edifice, with an unusual truncated clock tower, mansard roof, and corner quoins with features of its Second Empire style reflecting France Napoleon influence. This building was originally built by contractors Martin & Moody of Comanche from brick made on Nearby Caney Creek. When the building burned, the outside walls were still standing and in good shape. Because of continual delays, in April, 2005, the original architect was let go and Marcel Quimby Preservation Architecture, Inc. was hired to complete the project. Ms. Quimby worked with the Texas Historical Commission regarding historical researching and restoring the courthouse. In October 2006, the court selected contractor J.R. Jones Construction, headquartered in Weatherford, Texas.

Restoring unique items such as pressed tin ceilings and gold door knobs with historically correct replicas presented various problems. For many items, there were only pictures of scorched pieces for reference. Manufacturers produced and then installed mockups on site for approval by the architect and the THC. The stairs and trim inside are the same wooden as before the fire. The only real difference is the elevator since the stairs are steep and can be a problem for the handicapped.

In 2009, a major event in the outside restoration occurred when the bell/clock tower was hoisted in place by a huge crane. The tower was manufactured as a complete aluminum unit and trucked in from Utah. It replaced the clock and bell which had crashed to the ground inside the courthouse when it burned. The old cracked bell and clock face are now on display at the old well site on the north side of the courthouse square. The air-conditioning system is geo-thermal making it very efficient.

The courthouse received recognition in 1974 as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and in 1981 as a State Archeological Landmark as well as nation prominence in 1979 as a National Register of Historic Places.
The courthouse stands now in the center of the town as a glowing example of what can be done with determination and patience. The restoration and rededication was completed in December of 2012.

Jonnie Miller, Chair