Courthouse restroom building faces demolition – again

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By Matt Kelton
Pioneer Sentinel

The Texas Historical Commissioner has approved demolition of the old restroom building on the northeast side of the courthouse square.

County Judge Kenneth Liggett said Monday demolition would begin as soon as weather permits, and will be razed by county labor. It could happen as early as this weekend.

Liggett received notice of approval by the THC Thursday, March 8. The latest request to demolish the building was sent to the commission Feb. 23.

In an e-mail from the THC, Susan Gammage, project reviewer for the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, said demolition of the building is permitted because it was not present prior to 1922. Clay County’s preservation plan is to restore the 1894 courthouse to the way it was before that year.

Gammage said that if commissioners move forward with demolition, the county must document the building, taking photographs and measurements of the structure. If the county moves forward with the 1922-era preservation plan, she said the building could be reconstructed to house air conditioning units. The county will be required to salvage roof tiles to replace those missing or damaged on the courthouse, as well as any other components that match. The county will also salvage brick from the building, which is a close match to that of the bandstand.

The building was reportedly constructed as a public restroom for women sometime in the 1930s, a time when the courthouse housed only a men’s room. The front portion of the building served as a changing room for the county band before performances at the nearby bandstand.

The e-mail from the THC refers the restroom and bandstand as of “the 1922 period.”

In 2005, commissioners discussed tearing down the structure and replacing it with a new public restroom for use during Pioneer Reunion and other events around the courthouse square. The construction of a new facility did not fit into the THC’s master plan for restoration of the courthouse.

During the 2005 discussions, commissioners learned that the THC would not allow anything to be built in its place should the building be razed.

In November 2007, commissioners again discussed whether to repair or demolish the structure after the entry door had fallen from its rotted frame. During a Nov. 5, 2007 meeting, Liggett noted that the building was no longer in use, and that it was not considered historically significant by the THC.

After use of the building as a public restroom was discontinued in the 1980s, the structure served as storage for election equipment and housed controls for the courthouse lawn sprinkler system. By 2007, the building was empty.

Inspection of the building showed mortar that had deteriorated into piles of fine powder on the floor and crumbling interior walls. Windowpanes had fallen from their rotted frames leaving the building open to the elements.

Wilson Scaling, then commissioner of Precinct 3, said in the meeting that the building had not been structurally maintained since his election in 1994.

One issue with the building is a concrete slab foundation that is broken and sits slightly below grade. While the THC favored restoration over demolition, the commission would not allow the county to take down the building to repair the foundation.

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Pioneer Sentinel

The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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