La Salle County finds itself surfing a wave of prosperity
An honor guard brings in the first flags to be hoisted over the newly restored La Salle County Courthouse during grand opening ceremonies in Cotulla last weekend. Photo: Tom Reel, San Antonio Express-News
COTULLA — The newly restored La Salle County Courthouse opened over the weekend with a flourish — speeches, guided tours and free barbecue.
When the project started a few years ago, the $8 million budget seemed enormous in a county that had seen little meaningful construction activity in decades.
Now, it's a tiny slice of the buzz.
“We've been out there four years. At that time it was one of the biggest projects in the county,” La Salle County Judge Joel Rodriguez Jr. said. “Now it's a drop in the bucket.”
La Salle County, traditionally known for its trophy deer, now has a reputation for producing crude oil.
La Salle County Courthouse rededicated
COTULLA, Texas—The La Salle County Courthouse was rededicated on Jan. 26, following a four-year restoration made possible with more than $3.5 million in grant funds from the Texas Historical Commission (THC) through its award-winning Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program.
Construction began on the project in 2009 to return the 1931 courthouse to its former glory. The building was designed by renowned Texas courthouse architect Henry Phelps, considered his last, most ambitious and imaginative courthouse design. The courthouse sits in the center and highest point of Cotulla, facing a public square.
DOWNTOWN COTULLA ONE STEP CLOSER TO NATIONAL RECOGNITION
By Marc Robertson
The Cotulla Main Street Program, now in its sixth year of operations, has taken another step towards having the city listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with an application presently under review by the National Parks Service.
Designated a Main Street City in 2006 and marking the occasion with a ceremony attended by Texas First Lady Anita Perry in February the following year, Cotulla stands at the crossroads of South Texas' most significant trade routes and has played an integral part in the civilization, population and commercialization of the region for centuries.
In the heart of the city, today's heavily used roads are primarily occupied by trucks traveling to and from the oil rigs over the Eagle Ford Shale, and while these may bring a new economic boom to the region, previous travelers did the same for the communities that lined the trade routes between the Gulf of Mexico and San Antonio.
The intersection of downtown Cotulla's Front Street and State Highway 97 is designated as a point on the Camino Real, the King's Highway, also referred to as the Old San Antonio Road. Not only did the route lead pilgrims from Mexico to the Missions in San Antonio but it also helped bring some of the earliest settlers to the region, including Native Americans and later explorers.
The vital trade route crosses the Union Pacific Railroad in downtown Cotulla today, and while wagon traffic may have brought settlers to the region in past centuries - as well as the Mexican army of General Santa Anna en route to the Alamo in 1836 - it was the advent of the steam locomotive and the iron rails that brought business to the newly settled La Salle County seat in the late 1800s.
Scene of a true Wild West murder, Cotulla's historic Gallman Building is given new life
Although the ghosts of neither young Sheriff Charles McKinney nor alleged conspirator George Hill are believed to haunt the place, their remarkable lives and grisly end are forever woven into the historic fabric of downtown Cotulla, where hopes of a viable preservation program have been renewed with the sale of the Gallman Building.
When Cotulla celebrated its designation as a Main Street City with a visit by Texas First Lady Anita Perry five years ago, the focus was on the preservation and revitalization of the community's downtown area, specifically historic Front Street, and expectations were high that the town's old buildings would be given a new life.
Serving as backdrop for the Main Street Program ceremony in February 2007 was the Gallman Building, listed as Cotulla's first brick-and-mortar structure. Taking part in the celebration were several generations of county residents, city and county elected officials, property owners, high school students, the school Mariachi band and the local Boy Scout troop. It was a day on which Cotulla focused new attention on its aging downtown buildings and began reversing more than a quarter-century trend of decay, neglect and demolition.