North Texas Daily

The Square: Denton’s most iconic feature

The Square: Denton’s most iconic feature

The Square: Denton’s most iconic feature
July 08
14:47 2014

Edward Balusek and Samantha McDonald // Visuals Editor and Staff Writer

Located in the heart of Denton, the Square is locally recognized as the city’s main cultural hub. The Square is where Dentonites of all ages, backgrounds and interests gather to celebrate the artistic and musical scene for which the city is well known. Whether people come for the food, concerts or other forms of entertainment on or around the Square, the goal is singular – enjoy yourself.

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The Courthouse-on-the-Square, which occupies the core of the city’s social center, is widely considered Denton’s most distinctive landmark. Built in 1896, the building has served as the home of the city council followed by the addition of county offices and eventually the distinguished Courthouse-on-the-Square Museum, which houses collections of exhibits and artifacts that portray Denton County’s history and tradition.

Virginia McNeill, second-generation owner of McNeill’s Appliance, said she’s been looking at the Square’s scenery for 52 years and “we still have a beautiful courthouse to look at.”

This courthouse is the third of its kind. The first one burned down and the second was hit by lightning.

The courthouse currently holds the title of the Square’s “crown jewel,” says Julie Glover, City of Denton economic development program administrator.

In addition to its historic aspect, the courthouse lawn has also become a destination for festivals and concert series, bringing together both locals and tourists to celebrate some of the city’s liveliest outdoor events.

“People are out here now, there didn’t used to be,” said Jodie Walden, a Denton resident since 1978. “When you drive by on the weekends, the courthouse lawn is covered with people.

The city hosts about 300,000 visitors each year, according to the Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau, which adds to the growing crowd seen at the Square.

“The Square has come into its own,” Glover said. “To mix that history with the new vibe really draws a diverse crowd – from families to students to older folks.”

Eat (and drink)

Replete with restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops, the Square offers a multitude of dining and post-dining options – no matter your taste. One of the most visited eateries is the recently opened LSA Burger Co., or Lone Star Attitude, which became the Square’s first rooftop bar and restaurant since its opening in November last year.

Devoted to parading the Texan impact on American music, the burger joint has been called a “Texas-themed Hard Rock Cafe” by the Dallas Observer and frames on its walls tributes to some of the most illustrious Texas musicians including Willie Nelson and Buddy Holly.

Also on the list of go-to’s is The Chestnut Tree Teahouse & Bistro that gives its guests the opportunity to enjoy their lunches on the comforts of the courthouse lawn by providing them picnic baskets along with their meals.

The shop was formed in 1994 with only seven tables. In order to cope with the booming lunch crowd, The Chestnut Tree has expanded its family-owned and -operated restaurant to accommodate more than 30 parties at once – proving that downtown Denton truly is in the midst of growth.

Of course, one must not forget arguably the city’s most popular coffee shop, Jupiter House. Voted Denton’s Best Coffee Shop four years in a row by the Denton Record-Chronicle, this local hangout is known for its friendly baristas, artsy décor, and – of course – irresistible javas.

Shopping

As the famous saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This rings particularly true for the Downtown Mini-Malls – two separate buildings filled with everything from typewriters and dolls to nunchucks and vintage guitars. The Downtown Mini Mall opened on the Square in 1980 with Mini Mall II following suit seven years later.

On the south side of the courthouse, County Seat Antiques has been offering antique furniture and home accessories since its establishment in the early 1900’s.

Among downtown Denton’s finest treasures is Texas’ largest independent used bookstore, Recycled Books, which moved to the Square in 1991.

“It’s a great privilege to be on the Square,” Recycled Books employee Ivy Foster said. “It’s been good because of the location and people who bring in all sorts of stuff.”

Foster, daughter of Don Foster who owns Recycled Books, said that it seemed like there was only one business on each street when the business moved to its current location.

“It was basically dying and it’s been great to see it get revitalized,” Foster said.

With more than half a million formerly owned paperbacks, hardbacks, records, and DVDs, which the store has been collecting since 1983, this shop has anchored itself as a staple of the Square.

Truly one of a kind

The Square’s landscape has dramatically changed to cater to and represent the different generations that have traveled through or settled in Denton.

“The types of stores that we have has changed and the beautification projects has changed the looks,” Virginia McNeill said. “We have so many people now who entertain themselves on our Square and a lot of them are young people from UNT.”

McNeill said that her favorite part of the Square is “the real community feeling the Square people have now, they’re neighborly.”

Feature Image: A view of the eastern side of the Square from atop Recycled Books. Photo by Edward Balusek – Visuals Editor

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