City of Fulshear may save Switch House, its oldest building

The City of Fulshear revisits plans for the future of its oldest building, constructed in 1896.

The City of Fulshear revisits plans for the future of its oldest building, constructed in 1896.

The historic Fulshear Switch House off FM 359, also known as the Section House, may be saved.

At the May 21 meeting, Fulshear City Council agreed to allow city staff to bring historical restoration experts to re-evaluate how much of the Section House can be restored.

The council voted to demolish Section House and salvage materials for a future historic preservation or recreation project at the Feb. 19 meeting, after receiving feedback from a national architectural firm with no historical preservation background, Council Member Debra Cates said.

“[Section House would be] another economic development lure and tourist attraction,” resident Ramona Rich said during public comments. “If we had our first museum in Fulshear that would be amazing. … It is the last historical building that the city owns in Fushear, and it would be a pity to lose it.”

The architectural firm evaluated the building—constructed in 1896—from a structural standpoint only, said Sonia Simons said, member of the Fort Bend Historical Commission. The firm provided an estimate of $477,000 to restore it, not including contingencies and site work.

Simons said she voted to demolish Section House based on the proposal from the architectural firm, but began to have regrets and wanted a second opinion from a historical preservationist, so she reached out to the Galveston Historical Foundation and found Chuck Morris, President of Chuck Morris Estate Homes, who volunteered to fully re-examine it.

Discussions for the Section House project were reintroduced to the agenda after city officials began to receive calls from citizens concerned about losing the historical building, Mayor Aaron Groff said.

Simons said Morris expressed concerns about termites but said the building was in good enough shape to preserve. Termite treatment cost around $1,500 and Simons said she is willing to cover it but is afraid it may end up going to waste.

“I have little to no appetite for rebuild,” Groff said. “Whatever we do, if we continue down the track of demolishing it, we still need to make sure that historical preservation eyes are part of that process because what I might think is valuable and what someone else thinks is valuable may be completely different.”

The council granted the historical committee 30 days to recruit historical preservation experts to further evaluate the historical value of the building and to compile details about the potential next steps to be discussed at the next general City Council meeting on June 18.
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