Old Nueces County Courthouse Receives Grant
The Old Nueces County Courthouse got a small infusion of cash in an attempt to find a future for the long-abandoned historic building. The Texas Historical Commission recently approved a $150,000 grant for the “stabilization and ultimate reuse” of the building, which has been on a renovation see-saw of high hopes and dashed dreams over the past two years.
The money comes from a $12.3 million National Park Service grant awarded to the state of Texas earlier this year. A portion of that grant went to the Hurricane Harvey Immediate Assistance Program, which targets historic properties in areas affected by the 2017 storm.
“Texas will continue its recovery from Harvey for years to come, but these grants will accelerate those efforts while also preserving some of our most treasured historic resources,” said Texas Historical Commission Executive Director Mark Wolfe in a media release. “We hope historic property owners take advantage of this grant funding.”
Owned by Nueces County, the old 1914 courthouse could use the money. It was vacated in 1977 and has been protected from demolition by a Texas Historical Commission covenant since 2006. That’s when Nueces County commissioners accepted a $1.5 million grant from the historical commission to stabilize the crumbling building and fence it off from ghost hunters and vandals. The courthouse is protected as an official historic landmark until at least 2027, when the covenant expires.
Last fall, former Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal formally requested that the historical commission lift the covenant. He said he knew of a possible buyer who would be willing to pay $1.2 million in back taxes for the land, but not the building. Later, the Ed Rachal Foundation, a nonprofit known for purchasing iconic properties in the area, submitted a proposal to pay both the back taxes and the cost of demolition. The Texas Historical Commission refused to lift the covenant.
Since then, a new judge has taken over the Nueces County Commissioners Court. Judge Barbara Canales said she would “do everything in my power” to save the courthouse. Shortly after that pronouncement, the historical commission announced it would work with the county to find state money and incentives for restoring the building.
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