Albany was chosen county seat of Shackelford County Texas in 1874. County Clerk W. R. Cruger named city for his old home in Albany Georgia. Post office opened August 1, 1876. Established as point on the Marcy Trail in 1848 and later on the Western Cattle Trail. City expanded as a frontier shipping point when Houston & Texas Central Railroad built a depot here in 1881. By 1882 a church building had been erected. In 1883 an opera hall opened and the current courthouse was built.
Designed by architect J. E. Flanders of Dallas Texas, the Shackelford County Courthouse was constructed in 1883. This Second Empire style courthouse is rectilinear in form, with the north and south facade broken into a five bays and the east and west three bays.
This courthouse, the Shackelford County Courthouse, was the first Texas county courthouse restored under the Texas Historical Courthouse Preservation Program established by the Texas Legislature in 1999. Constructed of limestone of both query faced ashler blocks and smooth stone, the distinct textures and creative masonry work make for an interesting exterior in spite of the common materials. Tall central tower with clock and bell at top.
Inside, the district courtroom on the second floor of the building reminded me of the courtroom at the Parker County courthouse in Weatherford; probably because of the high ceilings, the dark spindled woodwork and the window shutters. Again, the wooden staircases with the low spindles banisters are reminiscent of the courthouse in Weatherford. The courthouse employees were incredibly welcoming. This is a wonderful Texas historic courthouse to visit.
Shackelford County’s First Permanent Jail
The 1878 Jail down the street is interesting both for what it was and what it is today. An early prisoner held in this jail, John Selman, later would kill notorious gunman John Wesley Hardin in El Paso Texas. Today this building at 201 South Second Street houses The Old Jail Art Center. With a mission to be the primary cultural resource for the region, they have a substantial permanent collection and also host temporary exhibitions from other collections. Youth and adult education is also part of their mission.
Holly Phillips, who works at the museum, is so cheerful and positive and informed about the collection. Her insight will make your visit even more worth while. Stop in to chat with her if you can. In all honesty I can tell you that the facility and the collection was way more impressive than I had expected. MoMA it’s not, but I’m glad I didn’t drive by without stopping.
Other interesting stuff
Several old buildings face the courthouse square. There are Texas Historical Commission signs in front of two buildings across the street: the Hartfield Building and the White Elephant Saloon. There’s also an old restored Sinclair service station on the square. Heading north up North Main St., there’s an old commercial district with shops and who knows what you might find. There was a vintage soda shop in town, Weaver-Oates Pharmacy, but I’m pretty sure it’s gone. Do correct me if I’m wrong.
Copyright © 2008 by Sam Fenstermacher
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