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Lavaca County courthouse to be rededicated Saturday

By Sonny Long
Sept. 8, 2010 at 4:08 a.m.

Renovations of the Lavaca County courthouse in Hallettsville,  originally designed by architect Eugene T. Heiner,  are complete. The structure will welcome visitors during a rededication ceremony on Saturday.

IF YOU GOWHAT: Lavaca County Courthouse rededication

EVENTS: 9/11 ceremony, live music, tours of courthouse

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday and 1 to 6 p.m., Sunday

WHERE: Lavaca County Courthouse, Hallettsville

STILL TO COMEFriday, Oct. 1, Monday, Oct. 4 - Lavaca County courthouse annex closed to move offices

Tuesday, Oct. 5 - County offices reopen in courthouse. County Clerk and Probation Department will remain in annex

Thursday, Oct. 28 - Tour of courthouse by members of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

HALLETTSVILLE - Some of the renovations at the Lavaca County Courthouse are dramatic, but project coordinator Merle Richardson hopes others go unnoticed.

Much of the work done involved installation of a modern sprinkler system and central heating and air conditioning. At one time, the courthouse had more than 20 window unit air conditioners.

The Texas Historical Commission, which helped pay for the project with grant funds, has guidelines on how modern changes can affect a restored building.

"They did not want any of that visible in primary spaces, the courtrooms and the public halls," Richardson said. "The air conditioning is fed from the side walls in those spaces. As much as possible, it was the same for the sprinkler system. They did not want to see sprinkler heads in the public spaces."

The entire courthouse was cleaned on the outside, and each inch of woodwork on the inside was refinished, said Richardson.

"The woodwork itself took about nine months. People worked by hand. It was a tremendous job," he said.

A rededication of the courthouse, originally built in 1899, will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Lavaca County Judge Ronnie Leck invites the public to attend.

"We'll have events all day and hope people come to participate," Leck said. "We invite everybody from the whole area to come and look at our beautifully restored courthouse."

Events begin at 9 a.m. with a Patriots Day observance for the victims of 9/11. At 9:30 a.m. a dedication of the restored bandstand on courthouse grounds will be held, followed by the courthouse rededication.

Tours of the courthouse will be given along with fireman's pumper races at noon, informational booths and a street dance featuring the Ross Brunner Band.

On Sunday, courthouse tours will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. with antique cars and antique tractors and farming equipment on display.

Music will also be provided during the day from Chris Rybak and from the Shiner Hobo Band.

Leck said the project took about 14 months to complete and came in on time and on budget.

He said much of the work will be highly noticeable to those who have visited the courthouse before, especially the building's overall condition.

"The original wood has all been stripped, cleaned and coated," Leck said. "The ceilings are now back in their original colors. Most of the walls are a light blue which is what was found to be the original color."

Floor tiles and each of the courthouses seven vaults have also been restored.

"It just looks so much fresher and newer and cleaner than it did before," Leck said.

The project was paid for with $4 million in grant funds from the Texas Historical Commission.

"This is money that was awarded to the county and does not have to be paid back," Leck said.

The county had to match $2 million, but private donations from foundations, organizations and individuals throughout the county and cities have reduced that amount by about $440,000.

"I like to say, when we open the doors to the courthouse that it's paid for," said the county judge.

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