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Shelby County Courthouse

County Seat – Center
Built – 1883 – 85
Style – Romanesque Revival (w/memories of Irish Castles)
Architect – John Joseph Emmitt Gibson
Date Photographed – 6/30/2015

go here for Adobe Lightroom Slideshow
go to Center Town Square
go to Shelby Historic County Jail

Wow – what a gem!  It’s probably not the prettiest or most impressive – but to me, it is the most intriguing.  Designed in the 1800’s by an Irish immigrant (John Gibson) – it does evoke the feeling of ancient castles, as it was meant to do.  Just walking around, you get the feel of the 1800’s.  Everything is real from that time period – the floors, the ceilings, the courtroom, the narrow stairwells.  You really do need to experience to understand.  Hopefully, the pictures will inspire you to do just that.

The square is very much in the center of town.  The old courthouse and its neighbor jail, make a very complete picture from the 1880’s.  On the grounds, you will also find an annex (separate building) built in the 1920’s or 30’s, a band stand and a building that is currently used by the the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

Sadly, it is no longer used as a courthouse.  Often, counties will continue to use the old courthouse for Commissioner’s meetings so that the historical building can retain the title of ‘County Courthouse’.  This is what has happened in Harrison County, Denton County, Cameron County, etc.  Instead, here everything’s been moved to a former bank building – we’ve included a couple of photos of the current courthouse.  There are probably a host of reasons for not keeping this building as the current courthouse – fire code, repairs needed, etc.  But still, I hope that somehow, someday this is again crowned Courthouse of Shelby County.

Currently, the Courthouse appears to be a museum.  Lots of very interesting artifacts, photos, furniture, etc. can be found inside.  The courtroom is entirely original down to its fireplace, judge entrance/escape hole, benches and a jury selection rotary that’s very similar to a bingo selection cage.  We would never been able to get inside, if it weren’t for Jo.  She is a caretaker and happened to see me taking photos outside and asked if I wanted to go in.  Well, of course!  Thanks JO!!!  It turns out the museum doesn’t open until 9:30 or 10:00 and we were there around 9:15.  After getting some photos inside, the museum guide – Joe, showed up and entertained us with lots of information and stories.  So thanks to both the Jo/Joe’s that made this courthouse even more special.  Really, folks – don’t miss this one when making your must-see-courthouses  list.


2 Responses to Shelby County Courthouse

  1. Jeff Rector

    As a kid, almost 50 years ago, our family would drive by this courthouse every Christmas Eve on the way to my great-grandmother’s house just outside of Center. As was the case in most cities, there was a ban on popping fireworks in the city limits. But on that night – under adult supervision, I presume – fireworks were allowed JUST in the courthouse square. I still remember driving by and getting excited watching all those Black Cats and Roman Candles going off, and smelling the burnt powder!

    • Tom

      Great Memories – wonderful courthouse and a nice East Texas town!

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