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ENDANGERED TEXAS TREASURES--TEXAS COURTHOUSES
(Extensions of Remarks - February 14, 2013)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E159]
             ENDANGERED TEXAS TREASURES--TEXAS COURTHOUSES

                                 ______
                                 

                              HON. TED POE

                                of texas

                    in the house of representatives

                      Thursday, February 14, 2013

  Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, no matter where I go, I always meet 
someone who wants to share a memory about my former life as a criminal 
court judge in the Harris County courtrooms. Most times, people 
reminisce about some of the creative punishments that I handed down or 
about the time they served jury duty in my courtroom. But, sometimes 
the conversation turned to the courthouse itself, or as I call it, the 
Palace of Perjury.
  I presided over more than 25,000 criminal cases in the Palace of 
Perjury for 22 years. My particular courtroom was massive. Paneled in a 
dark wood, it gave off an ominous, serious mood. As it should--some of 
the worst and most horrid crimes were tried within its walls.
  That courthouse--now the Juvenile Courthouse in Harris County--was 
just one of 235 courthouses in Texas. Each is a symbol of our state's 
rich history and a symbol of our promise to follow the law and pursue 
justice. Courthouse construction began in Texas after it won 
independence from Mexico in 1836. Counties were formed and courthouse 
construction began in each. Because the counties were booming and 
populations were increasing, many courthouses served multiple purposes: 
schools, churches, dancehalls and meeting places, not just a place to 
settle legal issues. Courthouses became the heart of the town--or the 
``square'' of the town. Here Main Street businesses grew, and 
communities were shaped. Trials, elections, marriages, parades and 
festivals are forever linked to our historic courthouses.
  At times as a judge, I traveled to other counties to try cases. Along 
the way, I began to photograph Texas' historic courthouses. I was drawn 
to their impressive and varied architecture. Built with bricks, stone, 
and stained glass, some have clock towers; others have domes. Each is 
unique. I like the Renaissance Revival style of the Anderson County 
Courthouse and the Romanesque Revival style of Fayette County 
Courthouse in La Grange. Some like the Newton County Courthouse known 
for its Second Empire style, while others like the La Salle County 
Courthouse known for its Moderne-style structure.
  Along the way, I learned that other Texas officials shared my love 
and admiration for our State treasures. In 1993, my friend and then-
Governor George W. Bush, together with the Texas Historical Commission, 
established the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, a plan 
that provided $200 million in matching grants to communities working to 
repair and restore these structures. By the end of 2012, 63 Texas 
counties have received full funding for their construction project. 
That includes the Harris County Courthouse--``the Jewel of the South.'' 
Built in 1910, restoration on the courthouse was available through 
funding from the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program and was 
completed last year. There's a lot of history in our great State, and 
it's our responsibility to preserve this rich heritage for future 
generations.
  In 1998 and again in 2012, the National Trust for Historic 
Preservation named all historic courthouses in Texas to its annual list 
of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Some of those historic 
courts are located in rural counties with limited funds, but are in 
need of insurmountable repairs. Unfortunately, some are on the brink of 
abandonment or demolition. Budgets are tight all around, but I think 
these treasures are worth saving.
  This spring break and summer, as you pack up the family and head 
across our great state, get off the interstates and drive downtown to 
any Main Street. There you can share a little Texas history with your 
kids and grandkids. On each Main Street is a Texas treasure. And that's 
just the way it is.

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