A COURTHOUSE FIT FOR A KING
Named for its location near the center of Shelby County, Center serves as the county seat. In 1885, one of the more idiosyncratic courthouses in Texas rose on the town square. Though modest in scale the Shelby County Courthouse resembles an Irish castle. Irish immigrant architect J.J.E. Gibson designed the two-story structure in the Romanesque Revival style, using a cruciform plan like a European cathedral with masonry buttresses for support. The courtroom looks like a sanctuary, with heavy timbered trusses, a sloping floor and a vaulted apse. Gibson designed 12 fireplaces for the building, and their distinctive brick chimneys rise dramatically along the perimeter. Construction materials included timber cut from nearby East Texas forests and red and brown brick made at Gibson’s local factory. In 1992, the county moved its offices; the historic Shelby County Courthouse was restored as a visitor center, which also hosts civic and cultural events.
The Historic Shelby County Jail, also designed by architect Gibson, now is home to the Chamber of Commerce. You can soak up more history at the Shelby County Museum, housed in an early 20th Century residence, where a timeline and period rooms interpret history from the days of Caddo Indians, to Spanish explorers, to pioneer settlers. Center is known for its annual events, such as "What-a-Melon" festival, Poultry Days, Republic of Texas Celebration, and the East Texas Energy Expo.