Weatherford Democrat

Viewpoints

August 29, 2011

COLUMN: Courthouse captures county pride

— “Life is lived forward, but understood backward” (author unknown). After reading the letter to the editor published Sunday, Aug. 21, by a Mr. Bill Bush advocating the destruction of the Parker County Courthouse, this quote came to mind. His reasoning, as outlined in his writing, is to solve the traffic congestion problem around the square.

When I received my first text early Sunday morning with the words “you better get a newspaper,” I couldn’t imagine what sparked the sense of urgency I read into that text. Soon, Facebook was sizzling with comments about the man who wanted to tear down the beloved courthouse.

When I read the letter, admittedly, I was speechless. How could anyone want to destroy the most treasured asset in all of Parker County? His reasoning is not sound to say the least. Before I address the solution to the problem, I believe it is most important to remind our county of the significance of the “Crown Jewel” most of us love and respect.

As noted in the opening quote, protecting our heritage is part and parcel of building our future. What we were yesterday defines who we are today and what we will become tomorrow. Protecting our heritage and moving to the future begins with protecting the one historical asset that belongs to everyone. The one piece of history that enables those whose families have lived here for generations, and for the family who just moved here, to embrace moments in time that shaped Parker County.

The original courthouse was destroyed by fire and replaced in 1858. That building was lost to fire in 1874, and in 1884, the third courthouse burned to the ground. A contract was let in June 1884 to rebuild, yet again, and the current courthouse was completed in 1886.

Many changes occurred in the building over the years to accommodate growth. In 2003, a restoration was completed. That restoration provides an accurate look into the past when one walks the halls or step into one of the most impressive courtrooms ever designed. Today, the courthouse is a functional facility serving the needs of the taxpayers. My staff and I provide tours regularly including groups of students, scouts, Sunday school classes and family reunions. One of us will be happy to share the experience with you.

As for a solution to the traffic problem that prompted Mr. Bush to write his letter? I don’t know how long he has lived in Parker County, but in 2008, voters approved a transportation bond for multiple projects around the county. The cornerstone of that bond was the Western Loop, now called Ric Williamson Memorial Highway. Construction is underway, and the target date for completion is in 2014. Barring any unforeseen issues with the Federal Highway Administration, we should reach our goal. When that day arrives, much of the traffic will naturally divert away from the square. Hopefully, we will see downtown businesses continue to thrive and empty buildings begin a new lease-on-life with tenants who understand the uniqueness of what is offered.

Destroying the Parker County Courthouse might seem like a logical solution to someone who fails to reflect on our past as defining who we are today. Mr. Bush suggests correctly that we should all strive to keep things “small town friendly.” Some of that is lost with growth, unfortunately. Gone are the good old days when the courthouse was the absolute “center of attention” for community events. One thing has not changed, however. We still look at that grand building with pride and say “There she is. That’s my courthouse. Best one in Texas.”

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