Canton, Texas, was founded in 1850, and is a charming, historically significant town. Although it is a small community with a population of less than 3,500, Canton attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to its First Monday Trade Days, now known as the world's largest flea market. Held here since 1850s, the Trade Days evolved from informal market days held when circuit judges came to town once a month to hold court.
From 2000 to 2004, Canton was honored as a National Main Street City. Its Main Street partnership with local businesses, civic associations, and non-profit organizations has revitalized 29 historic business buildings around the Courthouse Square. The Van Zandt County Historical Commission works with the owners to place interpretive plaques on each historic building. A current project involves preserving a one-hundred-year-old slaughterhouse/meat market near the square.
The City of Canton recently opened the Canton Plaza Museum in the closed city movie theater. It makes local history come alive with artifacts including an early fire truck, memorabilia from the Civil War, WWI and WWII, an exhibit on First Monday Trade Days, and materials from local tribes and other early inhabitants.
Canton also owns the oldest residence in the city, the Blackwell House, which has been restored and furnished with period furniture. Docents conduct tours of the facility, which is available for meetings, parties, and other functions, and which is the site of an annual Heritage Day open house.
The Canton Chamber of Commerce, the Main Street program, and the County Historical Commission work closely together to promote heritage tourism and economic development in Canton and the surrounding area.
The commission recently published 3,000 brochures that include a map and a driving tour. These were widely distributed, and the City Economic Development Corporation has granted funding to print 4,000 more. The City of Canton also participates in the Texas Lakes Trail Heritage Tourism program.
Designated a Preserve America Community in April 2005.