This is the fourth structure to serve as the
Milam County Courthouse. The local Masonic Lodge
laid the cornerstone for the building on July 4,
1891. Designed by architect
A. O. Watson of Austin, the Courthouse at one
time featured a second empire style roof and a
cupola with a four-sided clock. The clock was
removed and the roof altered in a 1938 renovation
project by the Federal Works Progress
Administration. As the center of County
government for over a century, the Courthouse
stands as a significant part of Milam County
Milam courthouse designated ‘recorded historic landmark’
County’s renovation work was one of earliest for state commission
By KEN ESTEN COOKE
July 9, 2009
It was the only remaining designation left and now the renovated Milam County Courthouse
has a “Recorded Texas Historic Landmark” marker.
On the nation’s patriotic holiday, a crowd of about 200 met Saturday in the shade of the
large pecan trees on the west side of the courthouse to be part of the marker ceremony
and hear a Milam County native talk about the state’s courthouse restoration projects.
Stan Graves, born and raised near Sharp and a Rockdale High School graduate, is now
director of the Division of Architecture at the Texas Historical Commission. Graves
gave the keynote address, and will soon direct another renovation project—that of the
burned Governor’s Mansion in Austin.
Graves said Texas has the best collection of courthouses and its renovation program “is
the envy of every other state in the nation.”
“Milam County was the fourth of 50 courthouse renovation projects and there are 16 more
under way,” Graves said. Graves said during his THC tenure, he has learned that some of
the old courthouse buildings were fire traps. He also said we can learn much from the
early building designs.
“Old buildings have a lot to teach us and we can learn from how they used operable
windows and the building’s placement to use passive solar heat.”
Graves took a potshot at some post-1950 courthouse designs, saying some look like “a
dentist’s office, a bank, a funeral home, or even a cheese grater.”
But he said the well-built structures now being renovated “embody the hard work and
vision of our forefathers, and the faith that we will always cherish our courthouses.”
Graves said the only person missing from the day’s festivities was Norman Rockwell, as
the red, white and blue-adorned crowd set a “wonderful scene of Americana.”
Former County Historical Chair Joy Graham, who steered preservation efforts with the
Preserve Our Past (POP) Committee, said the ball began rolling for renovation in 1994
when then-County Judge Roger Hashem won federal funds totalling $486,000 and the county
threw in another $120,000. The POP Committee helped steer both phases of the renovation
and the finished project cost roughly $4.3 million, she said.
Several architectural “jewels” were found as layers of ugly-yet-convenient remodeling
work was done over the decades at the courthouse: a balcony floor, once hidden by a
dropped ceiling, was reopened; massive and architecturally unique wooden doors were
discovered and repaired; ornate pillars were uncovered and refinished; and ceiling and
floor tiles were matched with some of the material having to be re-milled in Europe.
“A bullet hole in one of the walls was kept to remind us of a disagreement that led to
the death of a Milam County Sheriff,” Graham said.
“How can you really know who you are if you don’t read about your ancestors and their
activities,” Graham said, plugging the Milam County Courthouse book, compiled by Mary
Graham also thanked the late Mike Peck and her late brother Tommy Timmerman, for their
dedication to the restoration project.
County Judge Frank Summers noted that the courthouse’s cornerstone was laid by Masons
exactly 117 years ago, on July 4, 1891. He invited the crowd to tour the building and
thanked all those who pushed for its renovation.
Dr. Dee Dee Green, co-chair of the Milam County Historical Commission with Geri Burnett,
opened the ceremony with recognition and acknowledgements of those who worked on the
After the ceremony the Milam Historical Commission hosted refreshments in the gazebo on
the courthouse square.
Communities in Concert Band performed patriotic music and Rev. James Lafferty offered
the opening prayer. Cameron Boy Scout Troop 752 posted the colors.
Milam County native Stan Graves is now director of
the Division of Architecture for the Texas
Historical Commission in Austin. He said it is
rewarding to see preservation work save a piece of
At left, Joy Graham spoke about the uniqueness of the Milam Courthouse.
Unveiling “Recorded Historical Landmark” marker were Milam Historical
Commission Co-Chairs Dee Dee Green and Geri Burnett, marker chair Jackie
Thornton and County Judge Frank Summers.