Grantee's Stories

Rebuild Our Courthouse

The Texas Bar Foundation granted $50,000 to the Friends of the Mason County Courthouse’s Rebuild our Courthouse. The grant helps fund the restoration of the historical Mason County Courthouse which was destroyed by fire on February 4, 2021 as a result of arson.

On February 4, 2021, the night before court was scheduled, the historic 111-year-old Mason County Courthouse was destroyed by arson. Flames raced through the second floor causing the third floor, bell tower and 150-year-old clock to fall to their destruction. After days of continued smoldering and small fires burning inside the debris, it became obvious the defiant shell of the sandstone rock outer walls and the interior columns were all that remained to the courthouse. Many weeks later, tests determined the structural integrity of the remaining shell was solid and plans to rebuild began.

The estimated cost to rebuild the Mason County Courthouse is a staggering $20 million, a figure that does not include additional expenses such as the replacement of the historic furniture, restoration of the rock exterior and repair to the lawn, irrigation and trees. Prior to the fire, Mason had been awarded a Texas Historical Commission grant, $4.17 million, for interior renovation of the Mason County Courthouse. This project had barely begun, with only the completion of the architectural plans. After the devastating fire in February, the Texas Historical Commission approved redirecting the remaining funds to the restoration of the courthouse and the Texas Association of Counties awarded $6 million from insurance. The Texas Legislature described the fire as an attack on the judicial system of the State of Texas and approved $6 million as additional funds for the restoration project. With these funds, Mason is short of their goal and needs to raise approximately $4 million. The citizens of Mason formed the Friends of the Mason County Courthouse to help with this effort.

The nonprofit corporation, Friends of the Mason County Courthouse, has a mission to provide financial support and other assistance to the County of Mason in its efforts to reconstruct and restore the Mason County Courthouse to its original grandeur. The Friends of the Mason County Courthouse is requesting $79,750 from the Texas Bar Foundation for expenses incurred in Phase Two of the restoration of the Mason County Courthouse. The estimated timeline to begin Phase Two is November 2021. Rebuilding the courthouse is a project with an end date, so a request for funding will not be a continuous event.

The iconic Mason County Courthouse, built in 1910, is on the National Register of Historic Places in Texas, and often referred to as the Grand Old Lady by Mason County Judge Jerry Bearden. The courthouse sits in the center of the square, by which every road into and out of the city of Mason must pass. Fortunately, all county records had been removed from the courthouse in preparation for the Texas Historical Commission Grant renovation project, thus spared from being destroyed in the fire. After the destruction of the courthouse, renovation changed into a massive restoration project. The current restoration project is divided into two phases with an ambitious goal of completion by February 2023.

~ Friends of the Mason County Courthouse

*Featured photo: Courthouse by Jeff Durst, April 2020