By Dr. Sharon Schuetz
Trinity County residents and officials gathered in Groveton on Tuesday, August 15, to honor Judge Mark Evans for his work in obtaining funds, and leading the task of repairing and renovating the courthouse during his tenure as Trinity County Judge.
The county hung a plaque in the main entrance where it can be seen by all who enter.
Evans was in the courthouse in the mid-'90s when he saw water running from the drop-ceiling.
This made him notice how much the courthouse had run down in its nearly one-hundred- year history. He compared the deteriorating courthouse to a sugar cube, saying, "It was like a sugar cube that has been saturated with water. It still looks good and holds its shape, but if you touch it, it crumbles."
In 1995 inmates from Eastham Prison were painting the courthouse where they discovered the large, front double doors had a copper plating covered by layers of old paint. The road to recovering the courthouse's original beauty had begun.
The first thing necessary was funding for the project. The process was started by hiring Michael Gaertner Architects in 1999 to apply for a grant. There would be many challenges before it was approved, but in 2004 a $273,000 Planning Grant was made available, helping to complete construction documents for the restoration. In 2006, a fire in the County Clerk's office nearly destroyed the building and awakened the community interest and created support for upgrading the courthouse.
After the grant was awarded in 2007, Judge Evans and the Commissioners Court issued $1.6 million in Certificates of Obligation covering the 20 percent match required by the county.
Evans appointed the Trinity County Historical Commission Chair Susanne Waller, along with County Commissioner Jannette Hortman, to manage the county's interests during the construction meetings and the travel to Austin to see the renovation through. Both women were instrumental in the successful completion of the project. Hortman continued working on it even after she left office.
The Texas Historical Commission reported that 'The project fully restored the courthouse to its 1914 appearance.
The exterior masonry was cleaned, patched and repainted. The sheet metal cornices and roof balustrades were far more deteriorated thanoriginally estimated, resulting in complete replacement of both the decorative elements and the wood support outriggers. A new roof was added. Original wood sash and steel frame windows were restored, including wood casement windows on the Second Floor that had previously been replaced."
Evans introduced his family to the crowd and acknowledged the contribution of those who held office and supported the project during the years of renovation from 1998-2011.
Tiger Worsham emceed the event where they served coffee and cake with a picture of
the courthouse, made from frosting drawn on top, after the presentation.