The Shelby County community of Westphalia was settled in 1872 by German Catholics. Church services were held almost immediately after the town was established, with the current building constructed between 1881 and 1882. Constructed from bricks baked by area craftsman, the church was constructed at a cost of $17,000. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
The four-screen theatre in the Shelby County seat of Harlan in 1882 as Long’s Opera House. By 1930, the theatre was showing primarily movies and rebranded as the Harlan Theatre, which it is still known as today. In the 1990s, adjacent retail buildings were purchased to add two additional screens. In 2002, the original theatre was cut in half, and after time as a clothing store and liquor store, it was remodeled to house a fourth screen. The theatre has been owned by the Backer family for over 50 years.
The Shelby County community of Kirkman constructed a new community center in 1992, using proceeds from a celebration held in June to mark the 100 year anniversary of the town’s incorporation. Used for graduation and birthday parties, local organizations, and wedding receptions, it is one of a handful of non-residential buildings remaining in the small community. Students living in Kirkman attend school at buildings in Manilla and Irwin as part of the Irwin-Kirkman-Manilla (IKM) school district.
The cornerstone of the Shelby County Courthouse was laid in August 1892, officially kicking off the $63,000 construction project in downtown Harlan, Iowa. A 20-foot-tall was originally present in the center of the courthouse, which was officially dedicated in 1893. Following the removal of the tower in 1899, the courthouse remained largely unchanged for nearly 80 years. In 1978, an elevator was installed as part of a major interior renovation. The courthouse is one of 40 in Iowa built before 1900.