Historian Anthony Knopp has given countless public tours of the historic Oscar C. Dancy Building in Brownsville.
He remains in awe, as much as those he guides, of the magnificent restoration of the building that serves as the Cameron County Courthouse at 1100 E. Monroe St.
Knopp said many local people have never gone inside the 100-year-old building. Those who do are amazed.
“It is really stunning to see some of these architectural features here in Brownsville in one of our own buildings. Sometimes with local people they really weren’t aware of it. There was just this big building there and they have never been inside of it,” said Knopp, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.
“They are kind of stunned to see the marble, the woodwork that has been done and the modeled decorations. They didn’t realize we had anything like this in Brownsville,” he said.
February is the month of love and the Texas Historical Commission wants people to express their love for Texas courthouses, such as the Cameron County Courthouse, during the “I Love Texas Courthouses” campaign.
The campaign encourages people to sign a letter provided by the “I Love Texas Courthouses” campaign that states why they love the courthouses. The campaign, which is being conducted in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Texas and THC, is a commitment to preserve the state’s “iconic” courthouses.
A portion of the letter states “Your beauty and majesty make you the centerpiece of hundreds of Texas communities and the apple of my eye. You draw me in to quaint downtowns and charming Main Streets. I just can’t help myself.”
The signatures from the letters will be displayed on a giant heart-shaped letter that will be unveiled Feb. 20 on the steps of the state Capitol. February 20 is Preservation Day in Texas.
According to the THC, the National Trust in 2012 named Texas courthouses to its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, which proved catalytic in the creation of the THC’s Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program.
The Cameron County Courthouse underwent major renovation in the 1990s that cost an estimated $17 million. The THC contributed about $7 million to the project.
The “I Love Texas Courthouses” campaign states Texas has the most historic courthouses of all states, with 235 of them still in use. Currently, 139 Texas courthouses are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
While the THC has provided $247 million in matching grants to restore 63 historic courthouses, 75 others still need to be restored, the National Trust reports.
People interested in the campaign may visit www.ilovetexascourthouses.org, where they can sign the letter. They can also make donations for saving Texas courthouses to the National Trust for Historic Preservation by logging on to http://tinyurl.com/b3826gd.
Donations may also be made to the Texas Historical Commission at http://tinyurl.com/afaxkr9.