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Passing Through: Irish Influence and Colorful Art in Center, Texas

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

Center, Texas in Shelby County has one of the most interesting courthouses that we have encountered on our travels. As James says, it's "extra." But in a good way! Our recent road trip through the Texas Forest Trail region took us through Center, so in keeping with the theme, we planned an extra stop that was extra fun!

A showstopping, Romanesque centerpiece to Center's burgeoning town square, the 1885 courthouse is known by its twelve chimneys and handmade brick, special touches that its Irish architect implemented in order to replicate an Irish castle, and the only remaining American courthouse of this design.

Sitting next to the courthouse, the Historic Shelby County Jail was built at the same time, and by the same architect. When we were there, we saw many young people in formal wear - it was prom season - posing next to the jail. It was a great scene, but funny to imagine what the residents of 1800s Center would think about the jail being a desirable backdrop for beautiful dresses!

Downtown Center, Texas was full of such backdrops, from vintage facades to modern landscaping and vibrant businesses. There were also quite a few people out walking dogs, strolling the sidewalks and jogging around the square, not something we always see in a town of this size.

My favorite discovery, perhaps of the whole trip, was DavMar Gallery and its outdoor murals, the work of local artist David Masterson. As enthusiastic art adventurers, we wished we had known about this charming space earlier so that we could have made an appointment to go inside. But there was plenty to see around the building and across the alley from this contemporary art gallery in East Texas, as well.

Historic Shelby County Jail in Center Texas. Brick building by trees.
The Historic Shelby County Jail now houses the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce.
Art Gallery with Texas flag painted on the side.
DavMar Gallery in Center, Texas.
bright zebra and polka dot murals on alley walls
A bright row of murals behind DavMar Gallery, seen on an East Texas road trip to Center, Texas.
yellow and magenta flowers in a rustic pot.
Spring flowers in downtown Center, Texas.

Travel notes: While we were there fairly late in the day and already had dinner plans elsewhere, there were a few local stores and restaurants that looked interesting! Many with patios, as well.

As always, please check independently to learn business hours or other visitor's information. While most of our stops are outdoors and easy to access, things can change quickly, especially these days.

Pandemic guidelines tend to vary a bit from town to town. While we are fully vaccinated (yay!) we still fully comply with local public health policies, and encourage others to do the same.

Local guides for more information:

Click here for an interactive map of East Texas travel stops, including the Center, Texas points of interest mentioned in this post. Connect with us on Instagram and Facebook to learn more about Center and future small town Texas road trips!

Photos by James Khattak

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