You are here

Visitor Center (Shelby County Courthouse)

-A A +A
1886, J. J. E. Gibson. 124 Austin St.

Irish immigrant John Joseph Emmett Gibson (1849–1931) was a local builder and brickmaker who adopted a romantic interpretation of his homeland castles to design this unique courthouse with twelve tall, round towers. The three-story rectangular structure in local red brick has projecting two-story entrance bays on the north and south sides, forming a modified cross plan. The round towers, buttressed on the lower floors and flaring at the tops, mark the building’s corners and bays. Tall windows have round arches. A tall, square cupola rises from the roof ridge. In awarding the project to Gibson following the destruction by fire in 1882 of the 1867 courthouse, county commissioners specified the building’s exterior dimensions, the number and arrangement of rooms, and the construction materials. Specifications also included several innovative components, including filling the areas within the floor framing with mortar, lime, and sawdust as an acoustical barrier and installing dry-earth toilets in the restrooms.

Gibson also designed the old county jail (1885; now the Chamber of Commerce) on the northwest corner of the courthouse square. Compared to the courthouse it is modest and restrained, a two-story red brick structure with end-gable parapets and chimneys. Gibson worked in St. Louis before coming to Texas, where he first settled in Panola County. After moving to Center, he also established a brickworks, providing materials for many of the town’s structures.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.


What's Nearby


Gerald Moorhead et al., "Visitor Center (Shelby County Courthouse)", [Center, Texas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Texas

Buildings of Texas: East, North Central, Panhandle and South Plains, and West, Gerald Moorhead and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019, 58-58.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.