You may know Marshall as the “City of Lights”, a nickname that stems from the annual “Wonderland of Lights” festival held yearly in the city during the holiday season. Located in Harrison County, Marshall has a population of approximately 22,000 residents but a fascinating and highly valued importance in the history of the country.
Established in 1841, Marshall quickly grew into an important hub for trade and transportation due to its location on the banks of the Red River and the Texas and Pacific Railway.
The city played a significant role in the history of Texas. The city is the location where the Marshall Convention of 1861 was held. During this convention, Texas delegates voted to secede from the Union and join the Confederate States of America, making Marshall an important center of support for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Let’s explore together what Marshall has to offer by diving into the fascinating glimpse of the past and let’s appreciate together the city’s unique heritage it holds in the United States history.
1. Visit the Starr Family Home State Historic Site
Once the residence of the prominent Starr family, who played a significant role in the development of Texas, James Harper Starr was a lawyer and politician. He acquired the property in 1850.
James Harper Starr served as the Republic of Texas’s Secretary of Treasury and later as the first State Secretary of Texas. His son, James E. Starr, became a prominent attorney and judge. The family’s connections and contributions to Texas history are noteworthy.
Over the years, the Starr family expanded the original Greek Revival-style house, resulting in the impressive two-story mansion that stands today. The house served as a gathering place for social events, political discussions, and cultural activities, making it a central hub of community life.
The house is open for visits from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM. On Monday and Saturday, the place is closed.
Address: 407 W Travis St, Marshall, TX 75670, United States
2. Step back in time at the Harrison County Historical Museum
The museum showcases the diverse aspects of Harrison County’s history, including its Native American heritage, pioneer settlements, Civil War involvement, and contributions to the development of Texas. Visitors can explore exhibits on topics such as early industries, transportation, agriculture, education, and notable individuals who played a role in the county’s progress.
The museum is housed in the beautifully restored 1901 Harrison County Courthouse, which adds to the charm and authenticity of the experience.
The museum is open for visits from Tuesday to Friday from 10 AM to 4 PM and on Saturday from 11 AM–2 PM. The museum is closed on Monday and Saturday.
Address: 1 Peter Whetstone Square, Marshall, TX 75671, United States
3. Explore the Michelson Museum of Art
The Michelson Museum of Art is named after David H. “Davy” Michelson, a prominent businessman and philanthropist in the area. Davy Michelson was born on November 27, 1902, in Marshall and became a successful entrepreneur, particularly in the oil and gas industry.
As an avid art collector and supporter of the arts, Michelson had a passion for preserving and sharing cultural heritage. He amassed an impressive collection of artworks throughout his lifetime, including paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts spanning various periods and styles. His collection showcased both American and European art, with an emphasis on 19th and 20th-century works.
The museum opened its doors in 1985 and continues to be a significant cultural institution in the region.
Visit hours are from Tuesday to Friday 10 AM to 4 PM and on Saturday from 10 AM to 1 PM.
Address: 216 North Bolivar Street, Marshall, TX 75670, United States
4. Wander through downtown Marshall
Take a leisurely stroll through the downtown area and admire the well-preserved historic buildings that showcase unique architectural styles. Don’t miss the iconic Harrison County Courthouse and the beautifully restored Telegraph Building.
If you are looking for day trips from Marshall there are plenty of suggestions on the city’s official website.
5. Attend a performance at the Marshall Symphony Orchestra
The Marshall Symphony Orchestra has a rich history dating back to its establishment in 1967. With over 50 years of musical excellence, the orchestra has become a beloved cultural institution in Marshall, Texas.
Throughout the year, the orchestra presents a diverse repertoire of concerts, featuring different themes and guest artists. Make sure you check their website in advance.
6. Take a riverboat cruise on the Jefferson River
The riverboat cruise in Jefferson offers a delightful and picturesque experience. Passengers board a charming riverboat, typically styled after the historic paddle-wheelers of the past. The boat features an open-air upper deck, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Big Cypress Bayou and its lush surroundings. The lower deck provides a comfortable indoor seating area, allowing guests to relax and take in the sights while staying protected from the elements.
The prices are about $15 per person and you can book a tour by contacting this company that offers boat tours.
7. Immerse yourself in nature at Caddo Lake State Park
Spanning over 8,000 acres, the park is home to the largest natural lake in Texas. Caddo Lake State Park is its maze-like waterways, formed by cypress trees draped with Spanish moss and surrounded by tranquil waters. Exploring the lake by kayak, canoe, or boat is a popular activity for all visitors.
For those seeking a longer stay, Caddo Lake State Park provides various camping options, including tent and RV sites.
8. Attend the Fire Ant Festival
The Fire Ant Festival in Marshall began in 1982 and has since become an iconic annual event in the community. The festival was initially organized as a creative and lighthearted way to address the prevalent issue of fire ant infestations in the region. Fire ants are known for their aggressive nature and painful stings, which can be a nuisance for both residents and visitors.
The Fire Ant Festival has become an integral part of Marshall’s cultural identity and a symbol of community spirit. It showcases the town’s ability to turn a challenge into an opportunity for fun and camaraderie.
9. Learn about the history of the railroad industry in Marshal
If you want to learn about the history of the railroad industry in Marshall you can visit the Texas & Pacific Railway Museum. Located in downtown Marshall at 800 N. Washington Avenue, the museum is housed in the historic Texas & Pacific Depot building, which was constructed in 1912.
Inside the museum, you will find displays of vintage photographs, documents, maps, and memorabilia related to the railroad industry. These exhibits illustrate the impact of rail transportation on commerce, trade, and travel during the heyday of the railroad era.
10. Visit the Ginocchio National Historic District
This historic district is named after the Ginocchio family, who were prominent Italian immigrants and successful merchants in Marshall during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The district features a collection of well-preserved commercial buildings that showcase various architectural styles, including Italianate, Victorian, and Classical Revival.
Today, the Ginocchio National Historic District is a vibrant part of downtown Marshall, attracting visitors with its charming shops, boutiques, restaurants, and historic ambiance. It offers a glimpse into the city’s rich history and architectural heritage.
11. Enjoy a cup of coffee at The Blue Frog Bakery & Coffee Shop
Located in the historic downtown area, this cozy and inviting cafe offers a delightful atmosphere to enjoy your favorite coffee beverages.
The Blue Frog is known for its exceptional quality coffee, expertly crafted by skilled baristas who take pride in their art.
Address: 208 N Washington Ave, Marshall, TX 75670, United States
12. Explore the Texas State Railroad
The Texas State Railroad has a rich history dating back to its establishment in 1881. Originally built as a commercial railroad to transport timber from the East Texas forests, it played a vital role in the region’s economic growth. The railroad later expanded to offer passenger services, allowing travelers to explore the scenic countryside.
The Texas State Railroad offers a range of train rides that allow visitors to experience the beauty of the East Texas landscape.
There are lots of excursions you can take like taking lunch on the train. For more details and prices I advise check their page in advance.
13. Visit the Wonderland of Lights
The Wonderland of Lights transforms the historic downtown area of Marshall into a dazzling winter wonderland, making it the most popular event in Marshall.
The Wonderland of Lights festival in Marshall, Texas began in 1987. It was initiated as a way to celebrate the holiday season and bring a festive spirit to the community. The idea was to create a magical display of lights and transform the downtown area into a winter wonderland. The festival started with a modest number of lights and decorations, but over the years, it has grown into a spectacular event with thousands of lights, themed displays, parades, concerts, and various activities for visitors of all ages.
The Wonderland of Lights has since become a cherished tradition and a significant highlight of Marshall’s cultural calendar, attracting visitors from all over to experience the joy and enchantment of the holiday season.
14. Discover the Texas Visual Arts Association Gallery
Located 17 miles away from Marshall, the city is a treasure trove of history and attractions.
Jefferson was established in the early 1840s and quickly became a bustling riverport and center of commerce due to its strategic location on Big Cypress Bayou.
Jefferson’s downtown is renowned for its well-preserved collection of historic buildings. Take a leisurely stroll along the streets and admire the stunning Victorian and Greek Revival architecture, showcasing the city’s rich heritage.
15. Enjoy outdoor activities at Marshall City Park
If you want to spend more time outdoors and the weather is good, then a picnic at Marshall City Park would be a great activity for you to relax and enjoy a meal surrounded by nature.
Make sure you bring a blanket or use the available picnic tables and savor a delightful picnic with family and friends.
Sometimes visiting smaller cities can surprise us more than we expect. Stepping into Marshall is like stepping back in time, with its well-preserved downtown district and stunning historic buildings.
Whether you’re exploring the city’s historical landmarks, or just coming for the very first time to enjoy the festivities of the “Wonderland of Lights,” Marshall, Texas leaves a lasting impression. It’s a place where history comes alive, where creativity thrives, and where genuine Southern hospitality reigns.