TAHOKA, TX (KCBD) - In 1916 it was built for $78,000. It is the second courthouse in Lynn County and elected officials hope that it is the last.
Nearly 95 years old the majority of the historic Lynn County Courthouse remains in its original condition. "I still think it's a beautiful courthouse even though it needs lots of work," said Lynn County Judge H.G. Franklin.
Franklin has been a Lynn County resident all of his life, but in the last decade his passion has become restoring the courthouse. "Structurally though our courthouse is real sound as far as the outside structure is, its real sound," said Franklin.
Long before John Baker was Mayor of Tahoka, he started putting together the application for a historical restoration grant. "That document started out at about 8 pages, by the time it was submitted and approved," said Baker.
For more than ten years this project has been in the works and Baker says in 2012 they will be eligible to submit for construction dollars to the state and he anticipates they are at the top of the list.
So what makes this building so historic? For starters, original jail cells remain on the third floor. In 1936, an inmate attempted to escape, he was able to corner the sheriff's deputy and get his gun. "I was 7 years old, I remember that when it happened. The other inmates said they could hear the man begging, please don't kill me, please don't kill me, but you see he just kept shooting him," said Franklin.
In the marble wall the evidence remains. "There are several blood stains still there," said Franklin. Judge Franklin says people came from miles around for the inmate's trial. "That was entertainment."
He was later sentenced to death. Spectators filled the beautiful courtroom, and at the time there was a balcony, which Franklin says will be restored. Dual spiral staircases stand on either side of the courtroom, one for the jury and one for the defendant. A lot of the furniture in the courthouse is from 1916.
"Most folks will probably never guess what the wire underneath the chairs is there for, but that's where they put their hats," said Franklin. The building still has most of its original floors and paint. "It looks like it was actually hand painted on there, it's not a stencil. This is the color that most of the courthouses where is this funny green," said Franklin.
The smallest details are what make this courthouse so special, and Judge Franklin hopes they are able to stay preserved for decades to come. "It's going to make everyone in the county very proud," said Franklin.
The entire courthouse restoration is expected to cost just under $6-million. The grant from the state would pay for 85% of that. Lynn County leaders hope construction will start in 2012 and take about two years to complete.
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