Montgomery County finds new way to honor local landmarks

Montgomery County finds new way to honor local landmarks Shepard’s Barber Shop in downtown Conroe is one county landmark the historical commission would like to recognize with its new marker initiative. It opened in 1922. Barber Leon Apostolo, pictured at left, owns the shop.[/caption]

Montgomery County commissioners approved in December the creation of a new program to recognize local historical and cultural landmarks.

Because of recent budget cuts within the Texas Historical Commission, staffing has been significantly reduced and the commission can no longer handle the large amount of requests for historical markers from the state's more than 254 counties, said Larry Foerster, chairman of the Montgomery County Historical Commission.

The new Montgomery County Historical Marker Program will have the ability to approve landmarks and distribute markers to landowners whose properties have played a prominent role in the region's past.

"It's important we capture our history and heritage as a community—whether it's Conroe, Magnolia, The Woodlands—each community has its own history," Foerster said. "With the growth of the county, new people are coming in and older residents are dying—if we aren't careful, we are going to lose what this county is all about."

Because of staffing issues, a request for a marker from the state can take several years to process, whereas the local program can process the request in six to eight weeks, he said.

"We still encourage people—if there is a significant site or landmark—to apply for a state marker," Foerster said, "but our program simply complements and supplements what the state historical marker program currently provides."

Property owners will still go through the same process as they would with the state, Foerster said, and a property will have to meet certain standards before being granted a historical marker.

Property owners must submit a narrative detailing the landmark's history, including the use of several primary and secondary sources, and the property must be at least 50 years old.

Markers can cost anywhere from $515 to $2,000, which the property owners pay because the commission does not have the financial resources to purchase each marker, Foerster said.

Marker committee Chairwoman Sharon Russell said the program is important to both residents and visitors because it sheds light on places in the region that may otherwise be forgotten.

"What may be really

significant to Montgomery County may not be as significant to state history," she said. "This gives us an opportunity to let people know about our county, and our county was one of the first ones formed after the Republic of Texas was formed so we have a lot of history."