MASON, Texas (KXAN) — The 111-year-old Mason County Courthouse caught fire Thursday night, soon became engulfed in flames, and appears to be a near total loss.
“We are strong enough and we will rebuild,” Mason County Judge Jerry Bearden told KXAN early Friday morning while watching the courthouse burn.
The fire started around 10 p.m. Thursday. By 1:30 a.m., Bearden said the only thing that was left was the historic courthouse’s outer rock wall structure. The building was being prepared for renovations at the time of the fire. All county records and documents had been moved to a safe location in December 2020.
Bearden said renovations had not yet started in earnest before the fire. He said architects took paint samples and pictures inside the building, but work was not supposed to start until May.
Multiple fire departments responded including the Mason and Llano volunteer fire departments. Firefighters will be there throughout the night and the fire marshal will be on scene Friday morning around 9 a.m.
House fire nearby preceded courthouse fire
Fire crews also responded to a nearby house fire around the same time as the courthouse fire. It’s not clear if the fires are connected, but Bearden said the state fire investigators are “very good” and if there’s something to connect both fires, he’s confident they’ll find it.
“We’re going to investigate everything,” Bearden said.
The Mason County Courthouse was built in 1909 with construction complete in 1910. It was the county’s third courthouse, Bearden said. He said the previous two also burned down prior to 1909.
Bearden talked about the devastation the community is feeling during a live interview on KXAN, calling the courthouse their “grand old lady.”
“It’s something that everybody in the county here loved,” Bearden said. “It just breaks your heart to look at it.”
Bearden said firefighters did the best they could to keep the flames down, but ultimately “there wasn’t anything they could really do.”
“What we have left are 110-year-old walls,” he said. “It’s a terrible tragedy for people in the county. This is my 19th year being in office here, and I’ve been through floods and fires, but I’ve never had anything with a gut punch that I’ve had with this.”
Viewer videos of fire
Several viewers in Mason sent KXAN videos of the fire, and we compiled them into one 2-minute clip. Some of the videos show the courthouse crumbling as it burns down, and you can hear the anguish and sadness in some of the people who recorded the fire.