Commissioners award bid for courthouse renovations

Celinda Hawkins Managing Editor Runnels County Register n
The Runnels County commissioners awarded a bid the re-pointing of the Runnels County Courthouse during a meeting on Nov. 8. The project will commence in 21 days.

The Runnels County Courthouse will be getting quite a facelift soon, with commissioners awarding a bid last week for the re-pointing of the mortar on the historic structure.

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, commissioners awarded the bid to re-point the courthouse to Frontier Waterproofing, Inc. of Denton for $169,000. The county originally bid the project for the first time about three months ago, but the bids came in at over $300,000.

Runnels County Judge Barry Hilliard said the decision was made to reach out to potential bidders in Fort Worth, Abilene and San Angelo. A total of four bids were received and opened last week. Commissioners unanimously approved the Frontier bid.

The bid calls for the re-pointing of the stones, (which includes replace the mortar between the stones), cleaning the stones and stucco repair around the windows.

“We saved about $140,000 on this,” Hilliard said. “I am tickled to death to get the courthouse repaired.”

In recent years, cracks in the mortar have caused insect infestations and water damage during rain events.

Tom Glosup, was hired as the project manager and said he will oversee every phase of the re-pointing.

Glosup said that the mortar there now, is original to the structure. He said that the contractor will be making sure that the re-pointing is historically accurate by utilizing guidelines by the Texas Historic Commission. Although, the THC is not involved in the project at all.

“We have to make sure we go by historical standards,” Glosup said.

According to the contract, which was approved Tuesday, Frontier will have 21 days to commence work on the project, which is expected to take 120 days to complete.

“We could have extensions due to weather,” Glosup said.

Glosup said the contractor will have to “completely match the mortar,” with the stone, after it has been cleaned.

“We have algae on the building and that will have to be cleaned,” Glosup said. “We will go to extreme measures to match the mortar and the original mix.”

Hilliard said the project, will not hinder the placement of holiday lights on the courthouse this season.

“They will be doing the front of the building last, so we will have lights,” Hilliard said.

The Runnels County Courthouse was built for $30,000 in 1889 and at the time, had a sloped roof and a clock tower. This was removed during renovations in 1941 and the ornamental roofline of the courthouse was replaced with a flat roof. Other renovations were made in 1953 to the courthouse grounds.

According to Texas Escapes, the courthouse was constructed in Ballinger between 1888 and 1889 in the center of a two-block square set aside by the Santa Fe Railroad and remains one of the largest courthouse squares in Texas.

‘The courthouse was designed by Houston architect Eugene T. Heiner and built by contractor Tom Lovell. The Second Empire style building, with Italianate influences, utilized local stone in its construction and was accented with sheet metal work and Mansard roofs. The design mimicked other courthouses designed by Heiner at the time, most notably the 1888 Falls County courthouse, the 1888 Austin County courthouse (both no longer standing) and the 1889 Wharton County courthouse (still in use and restored to its original condition.)

In 1941 the courthouse underwent an extensive remodeling under the direction of architect Roy Lane of Dallas and contractor Oscar Rose. Two-story wings were built onto the east and west ends of the building with matching stone and the original stone was sandblasted to blend in with the new wings. The wood framed roof and central cupola were removed and replaced with a flat, steel roof. The interior of the courthouse was renovated at this time as well, including the dropping of the ceiling in the district courtroom. Despite the changes, much of the historic fabric of the building is still intact and the courthouse remains an important focal point of the community.