When the Fannin Street building served in recent years as the county's civil courthouse, all visitors saw above their heads was a low, drab ceiling. Now they'll look up several stories to a stained-glass dome.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says many Houstonians don't remember what the building looked like before its rotunda was closed off to create additional floor space.
"All the original art, the sculpture, everything about the building, the architectural features had been covered up in an effort to modernize in the 1950's."
Along with a sky-lit roof, the 100-year-old building features ornate moldings, wrought-iron stair railings, and tiled floors, all recreated from historic photos and documents. A marble staircase climbs several stories, and a courtroom features a balcony with reproduction wooden seats.
The cost of the renovation was 63 million dollars. Emmett says the money came from several different sources, including the Texas Historical Commission's courthouse renovation program.
"It's one of those instances where, rather than start over and build a whole new building, we had this historic building, let's go back and refurbish it. And while the furnishings are very nice, still, just to preserve a historic building made a lot of sense."
The building will now be home to the First and 14th State Courts of Appeals.