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Restoration groundbreaking held at Fannin County Courthouse
By Allen Rich
Jun 13, 2019
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Fannin County, Texas -- For the historic Fannin County Courthouse, the restoration groundbreaking ceremony held June 11, 2019 is a day that rivals the laying of the cornerstone for this imposing limestone structure in 1888.

Here is how the Fort Worth Daily Gazette described that event:

Today had been one of the most auspicious for Bonham and Fannin County ever experienced in the history of the city and county. The occasion was the laying of the corner stone of Fannin County's new courthouse which when completed will be second in magnificence to only one public building in the state of Texas, that being the state capitol.

Fast forward 131 years and you would find another group of immensely proud Fannin County residents gathered at their courthouse to celebrate the restoration of the work of their forefathers.

"I want to thank the Fannin County Historical Commission," remarked Fannin County Judge Randy Moore as he welcomed the crowd. "They kept this on the front burner for a long time. This isn't just a building -- it represents your county government."

Fannin County Judge Randy Moore

For a half century, local residents had lamented the fact that, entombed beneath a thin veneer of Leuders stone, was the dramatic limestone courthouse designed in the Second Empire style of architecture favored by Waco-based architect Wesley Clark Dodson. While many of Dodson's creations had been restored, including Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square and Hill County Courthouse, the Fannin County Courthouse languished in disrepair.

At the restoration groundbreaking June 11, Sharon Fleming, director of Texas Historical Commission's Courthouse Restoration Program, read a description of the condition of the Fannin County Courthouse: "While it's still the 1888 courthouse, it's impossible to tell by looking at it."

That will no longer be the case.

"When it is complete, this will be the most dramatic restoration project in our program," Ms. Fleming noted.

Sharon Fleming

Tom Thornton, President of Fannin County Historical Commission, recalled the excitement in November 2016 when it became evident that voters would support restoration of the courthouse.

"We said we'd dance in the streets...and we did!" Mr. Thornton told the crowd.

(L-R) Anne Stimmel of Architexas, Barbara McCutcheon and Tom Thornton

No one devoted more time and energy to the possibility of restoring the Fannin County Courthouse than Barbara McCutcheon, retired director of Bonham Public Library. Her decade-long crusade to "restore the grandeur" would end in the most appropriate fashion as Ms. McCutcheon stood with her back to the gutted courthouse and envisioned a historic limestone courthouse towering over downtown Bonham.

"After nine long years of talking and praying, here we are today," McCutcheon told the audience gathered on the north side of Fannin County Courthouse. "This is the beginning of Phase 2, the actual restoration phase. In a little more than a year from now, we will see our completed 'Temple of Justice.' It took a lot of time and the work of many dedicated citizens, but we have come together for a project we all believed in. I would like to thank all the county judges and commissioners for their invaluable dedication to this project. But above all, I want to thank the people of Fannin County for your support in this endeavor. Fannin County, this will be our time to shine!"

The crowd gathers before the ceremony.

The crowd poses in front of the courthouse as Phase 2 of the restoration project begins.

(L-R) Pct. 1 Commissioner Gary Whitlock, Pct. 2 Commissioner A.J. Self, Pct. 4 Commissioner Dean Lackey, Pct. 3 Commissioner Jerry Magness, Fannin County Judge Randy Moore

Joining commissioners court in this photograph are former county judges, Spanky Carter and Butch Henderson.

Commissioners court, Architexas and Texas Historical Commission

Following the ceremonial groundbreaking, the crowd toured the gutted structure.

Randy Patton found an antique sterling silver spoon that appears to commemorate the 1888 Fannin County Courthouse. The spoon has the first name Eunice engraved on the back.

Allen Rich and Barbara McCutcheon tour the courthouse