For many of us this year has meant staying close to home. As a travel writer, I decided to get to know the communities close to me while I had the opportunity. One I enjoyed exploring was my own—Henderson, Texas.
I moved to Henderson more than 10 years ago after I retired from my fulltime writing position. I wanted to live close to my daughter and her husband. Since then my granddaughter Ainsley arrived. Now five, Ainsley and I set out one recent Saturday to explore downtown Henderson and its many gift and antique shops around or near the city’s original square.
Henderson is actually two years older than the state of Texas. Founded in 1843, it was named for James Pinckney Henderson, later the first governor of Texas.
A courthouse was completed in 1849 in the center of the city square. During this time, the commissioners also donated both land and money for churches and schools to be built.
Like in many communities, the railroad arrived in the late 1800s. The community prospered. Also, during this time farmers, brick masons and pottery makers settled in Rusk County. The second courthouse was built of brick in 1878 and served the community until 1926. It was an ornate building located in the center of the city square.
Many of the stores built between 1883 to 1895 around the 1878 courthouse are still in use today. The 1878 courthouse was razed and today the square is unique in its design; where the courthouse was is a roadway and the original east and west streets fronting the businesses.
In 1930, C.M. “Dad” Joiner brought in the Daisy Bradford #3 Discovery Well six miles northwest of Henderson. As a result, during the 1930’s Great Depression, the City of Henderson experienced a population growth from 2,000 to more than 10,000 people in just a few months. Today the population is 14,000.
In 1986, Henderson’s downtown area was designated a National Register Historic District.
Although we didn’t visit every store, we chose several to peruse starting with The Curious Wren. The front of the store is filled with unusual gifts and a massive display of Madame Alexander and other collectable dolls. In the back of the store are shelves holding antiques and other collectables. I found a lovely flower pot.
A few doors along South Main Street we discovered Better Half Antique Market. Just as the name suggests, many vendors fill the space with antiques, vintage finds and collectables. And they offer Blue Bell Ice Cream. Naturally this was one purchase we made along with a music box for Ainsley and a piece of depression glass for me.
We continued, making a right onto the original square. We stopped at Sassy Sisters that specializes in clothing and gifts for women. The friendly shop clerk helped us and we came away with ideas for a future visit. Donavan’s Downtown was next as we walked along East Main Street. The store is filled with lovely gifts and displays.
I want to add here that this adventure might not be for all five-year-old’s, but Ainsley was good-as-gold and understood not to touch the lovely gifts and antiques.
The last store on East Main Street that we checked out was Kelly B’s. This is another mall-like store selling everything from clothing and antiques to home décor and candy. Yup, we made a couple purchases here including a bag of candy that Ainsley picked out from giant glass containers with the help of a patient clerk.
We crossed the street and made a stop at Rayford Florist & Gifts. The beautifully arranged displays and selection of gifts was just the right stop for future gift ideas.
Ainsley and I spend a lovely day shopping. There are other businesses in downtown, so I know we will return to explore them as well as revisit the locations we already explored.
If you’re ever in East Texas, stop and explore. I am sure you will have just as much fun as Ainsley and I did.