By Meredith Knight
Kelsey Jistel can’t begin to count the number of times she’s heard a visitor to the Courthouse on the Square Museum say, “I’ve lived here all my life and had no idea this was a museum.” So, this month as many of us will have time off work and school, she wants to get the word out to locals and out-of-towners about how much there is to enjoy at the historic courthouse and just down the street at Denton County Historical Park.
If you’re a history buff (and even if you’re not), the first thing you’ll see at the Courthouse on the Square is the gravesite of our town namesake, John B. Denton. It’s actually his third — but hopefully final — resting place, and we imagine he’d be thrilled to know he was right there overlooking the 1896 courthouse and welcoming visitors to enjoy the storied history of his town.
Just inside the courthouse is the main exhibit space which currently houses a rich display on the musical history of our county. Dubbed Making the Scene, the exhibit includes highlights of and artifacts from the jazz program at University of North Texas and the more recent indie rock scene of the 2000s. The exhibit is family-friendly and interactive, including a stage where kids can try their hands at kid-sized musical instruments. It’s been a big hit with young — and not so young — visitors.
There’s a vintage grocery store complete with a 1920s cash register where kids can imagine what shopping was like for their forefathers. The second-floor commissioner’s courtroom, in use until 2021, has been completely restored to its 1890s glory. It’s even played host to some local weddings and is a popular setting for engagement photos.
Once you’ve toured the 1896 courthouse, take a stroll down to the Bayless-Selby House Museum. The lovely Queen Anne Victorian home is decorated with turn-of-the-century furnishings and, throughout the month of December, will be decorated for Christmas the way it would have looked 125 years ago. It’s a lovely setting for an afternoon tea for your next garden club meeting or fundraiser.
Next to the Bayless-Selby House is the 1860s Taylor Log Cabin which has been completely restored and furnished with period pieces, and the Denton County African American Museum housed within a third home relocated from the historic Quakertown neighborhood in Denton. There’s a Victorian kitchen garden originally installed as a Girl Scout Silver Award project but now maintained by local master gardeners who love sharing their passion with visiting school groups.
“We’re excited about the next phases of the project which will include a second home from the Quakertown community, The Woods House, furnished with midcentury furnishings to represent the civil rights era, and the Stony General Store relocated from Stony, Texas.”
Quick, before your December calendar fills up, be sure to plan a visit to these historic sites and visit DentonCounty.gov/CHOS to find out about volunteer opportunities or to donate to the ongoing efforts at preserving and celebrating the history of our wonderful county.