Mason County News
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In My Opinion
Preserving History... But, At What Cost?
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 • Posted March 27, 2013

The Mason County Courthouse is currently enjoying a sprucing up of its electrical system, its roof, the dome and the clocks. Like any remodeling project, it has not been without its hiccups.

During the repair of the outdated electrical distribution system, there was a bit of confusion as to identification of specific circuits and which breaker connected to what wire. That got sorted out with only minor problems, and the risk of fire danger for the courthouse was reduced substantially.

Then came the roof.

It seems that the original shingles were no longer manufactured, which required locating a new source, having them fabricated, and finally installed. An impermeable membrane went down first, and as the contractor has informed the court, that membrane actually constitutes the roof of the building. It is the element that will protect the interior of the building from moisture, while the shingles are an aesthetic finish.

Moving on to the dome.

The original manufacturer of the metal for the dome went out of business. A new source had to be found, samples were issued, and all seemed well. Except for the color.

It seems that the Texas Historical Commission had done extensive paint scrapings and found that the original dome was not, as we had all assumed, white. In fact, it was a shade of grey that matches the shingles. But, the grey dome no longer matches any of the trim color, which required the county to seek out paint contractors who can bring the courthouse back into balance with its color scheme.

And, the Texas Historical Commission also had specific guidelines to the colors of paint that could be used for the exterior trim. Additionally, they were very specific about not using heavier paint coatings that might damage the original rock, wood or concrete, which means that the choices had to be narrowed down yet again.

And then, the clock.

For years, I've kept time by glancing up at the white clocks with their black hands towering over the square. As the bell pealed out the hour, I would glance up at the clock and note whether it was ahead or behind of my own timepiece.

According to the THC, the original clock faces were not white, off-white, or even grey. They were, in fact, black. And, the original numerals, hour blocks and hands were not black, but golden-painted wood.

Seeing as a source for the wooden hands was unavailable, the THC and contractor settled on an anodized aluminum replacement for those items with a gold finish. When I reflect upon how that will appear, I actually am a bit excited at the possibility, and think this may be one of the better decisions that have been made.

During Monday's Commissioners' Court meeting, as the group discussed these many twists and turns, talk turned to possible participation in a full renovation of the courthouse. The current project was only the electrical system and the roof (with the repainting an unexpected addition). The court conjectured that, should they elect to apply for the full renovation grant, and should the state fund it at an adequate level, and should they be chosen for one of the grants, this project had given them a taste of what to expect in the future.

The THC has already told the Court that the original tile floors will need to be restored. Of course, the ceilings that were lowered to accommodate air ducting will need to be raised once more. The original paint schemes for the interior of the building, as well as use of woodwork for the trim, all must be returned to its original state.

Sometimes, being accurate can be an expensive and damnable nuisance. It will be worth it in the end; but, we have to ask ourselves - can we afford it?

It’s all just my opinion.

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