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Tyler County Booster - Local News

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Ringing in a new chapter of history

Tyler County Booster

By Valerie Reddell

Construction crews equipped with a gigantic crane removed the bell from the clock tower of the Tyler County Courthouse in connection with the next phase of major courthouse renovations. County Judge Jacques Blanchette, members of the Tyler County Historical Commission and other county officials met with architects and staff of the Texas Historical Commission to discuss options for the remainder of the project. The goal of the restoration is to return the courthouse as closely as possible to its original 1891 design. "We have a really complicated building," Blanchette said Tuesday. The 1891 structure was covered with stucco as part of a WPA project in 1935-1937. The rear section of the courthouse was added at that time. "We want to do it right, whatever that means," Blanchette said. "We have to understand what 'right' is. It may require more investigation and evaluation. We don't want to do something destructive." Blanchette added that the architect indicated about six months are needed to plan the renovation. "During that time we will be able to do additional investigative activities to give us a clear understanding," Blanchette said. "As we've been working on the building, we've seen some things that are not obvious. Once you get behind a certain layer, it's not what you expected," Blanchette said. Removing the bell was a major step forward to move forward with roof repairs. "We're taking the clock tower completely down to provide a base of reconstruction," the judge continued. "We have to hammer out some specific details of how that's going to go forward." The crane was needed to removed the 1,800 pound bell. Placement of the heavy machinery required closure of the eastbound lane of West Bluff Street (Hwy. 190) throughout the day Monday. "We had to have (the crane) in order to safely and appropriately do that step," Blanchette said. The bell is being stored in a secure warehouse operated by the county until it can be rehung at the renovated courthouse. Blanchette said he expects to have additional conversations with the principal parties in this project. "Hopefully by the end of the week, I can articulate more details with accuracy. Right now, we are on hold while some additional information is evaluated related to the historical requirements that are imposed on courthouses," Blanchette said. The buildings listing on the National Register of Historic Places means that all construction must be approved by the Texas Historical Commission. The removal of the clock tower and roof repairs have been approved, but the agency's approval of the broader renovation is awaiting a plan from architects. "We discussed some options last week and told them the roof project was the way to go," said Chris Florance, public information officer for the Texas Historical Commission. "The county is working with some architects and will put together a proposal. We will take a look at the project based on the

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