At the Feb. 19 meeting, Fulshear City Council approved to demolish the historic Switch House, also known as the Station House, and salvage materials for a future historic preservation or recreation project.
The two-story, five-room Switch House—which is located next door to Encore Arts at 7926 FM 359—is an original building from the Fulshear Railroad Station, according to meeting documents. The building was moved to its current location at Frances Smart Park in 2016.
The date of the structure's construction is unknown, but it is believed to be one of the oldest buildings left in Fort Bend County, Mayor Aaron Groff said.
“There is much concern countywide about this station house,” he said. “I’ve had a number of people across the county reach out [to discuss the future of the Switch House.]”
Both the Fulshear Historic Preservation and Museum Committee and the Fulshear Parks and Recreation Commission recommended that the city demolish and salvage materials based upon the number of resources it would take to properly restore the building to its original condition.
“No one wanted this end result,” Assistant City Manager Brant Gary said. “But the results from the architect’s review, the current condition and the fact that that it had been converted into a more modern home. All of those things added to the decision-making process.”
According to meeting documents, the Switch House is a severely decayed structure. The floor and roof joists are failing and rusted, the wood cladding and interior finishes are decayed, and the building has a bug infestation.
“What I recall of [a 2018 historic preservation committee meeting] is that there were so many modifications made to this house already that it would be virtually impossible to get a historical marker for it unless we spent gobs and gobs and gobs of money and find historically accurate architectural features that would replace [existing features],” said Mayor Pro-Tem Kay Kahlich. “No one at the time thought it was a good idea.”
According to the meeting documents, it would cost about $783,000 to demolish and replace the floor, walls and roof. The estimate does not include restoring the interior finishes. Demolishing the structure and salvaging materials is projected to cost the county about $25,000, Gary and Kahlich said.
Groff and other council members stressed that before voting to demolish the building, they wanted to ensure all stakeholders had a chance to review the city’s plan, apply the Switch House for a historical marker or find additional funding sources to restore the building.
“There have been multiple opportunities for people to speak up,” said Council Member Debra Cates.
Council Member Kent Pool agreed.
“Nobody came to the parks department, nobody,” he said. “And we’ve had multiple parks meetings over this. This has not been an easy decision for people who are on the parks commission, [not] at all. It’s been a very tough decision.”
The city is considering renovating Frances Smart Park, according to the Parks and Pathways Master Plan that was also approved at the Feb. 19 City Council meeting. Conceptual plans include building a formal event plaza, walking paths, landscaping and additional parking.