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EMBRACING OUR HERITAGE

Fort Smith began as a western frontier military post, and in the late 1800s, it became the last law-and-order stop on the way to the Wild West. More U.S. marshals are buried in the greater Fort Smith region than anywhere else in the nation, and the Marshals Service selected Fort Smith as the future home for its national museum that will showcase 222 years of history.

Visitors to the Fort Smith National Historic Site can take a step back in time on the very spot overlooking the Arkansas River where the first military outpost was built in 1817. On the grounds nearby is a replica of the famed Fort Smith gallows where 80 men were ordered hanged by Judge Isaac C. Parker.

The fully restored courtroom of “Hangin’ Judge” Parker and early frontier jail known as “Hell on the Border” are housed in the renovated barracks building, which also houses the site’s Visitor Center. Visitors may enjoy an interpretation of Native American history, reflect along the Trail of Tears and see displays highlighting the U.S. Marshals and deputies who rode for Parker to protect the West.

Celebrating the marshals’ colorful history, in 2012 Fort Smith dedicated Arkansas’ first equestrian statue, the larger-than-life Bass Reeves statue at the foot of the Fred Patton Garrison Avenue Bridge.

Bass Reeves Legacy Monument
Ross Pendergraft Park
200 Garrison Ave.

The imposing bronze statue of Bass Reeves astride his mount reminds people that the U.S. Marshals who rode for Judge Isaac Parker were determined to bring order to the lawless frontier.

Fort Smith leaders aided by schoolchildren worked for nearly a decade to raise awareness and gather financial support to honor Reeves, a former slave described by a noted historian as “the greatest frontier hero in American history.”

Belle Grove Historic District
North Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth sts.

This 22-block area reflects a variety of architectural styles from the past 150 years featuring restored homes and buildings lining the streets with lush, mature trees and foliage. 

The district is on the National Register of Historic Places and delights visitors young and old who enjoy a stroll down memory lane.

The Bonneville House
318 N. 7th Street
479-782-7854

The Bonneville House is located in the Belle Grove Historic district and is listed on the National Register of Historic places.

Originally built in 1868 and occupied by the David McKibben family. Susan Neis Bonneville, widow of General Benjamin Louis Eulalie de Bonneville, purchased the house in 1878, and throughout her life preserved the memories, traditions and records of her gallant and distinguished husband, for whom the Bonneville Dam, Bonneville Salt Flats, and our local Bonneville Elementary School were named. In 1962, Melanie Holt Speer, recognizing its historic value and potential for restoration, purchased the old house and began renovations to restore the house to its former grace.
 
The house is available as a venue for private event rentals and community fundraisers.
 
Private tours are available by appointment during the week. Admission is $5 for Adults, $3 for seniors (65+) $3 for children (6-17) and free for children under the age of 6.

Clayton House
514 N. Sixth St.
479-783-3000

Originally built in the 1850s, this Italianate-style home was remodeled and enlarged in 1882 by William Henry Harrison Clayton, the U.S. district attorney in Judge Parker’s court.

The house is authentically restored and boasts a complete collection of 19th century furnishings throughout, including Clayton family belongings. The house is open for tours from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday, and by special appointment during the week. Private rental for events is also offered. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for Seniors (65+), $3 for ages 6-17 and free for children under the age of 6.

Fort Smith Regional Art Museum
1601 Rogers Ave.
479-784-2787

The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum offers greatly expanded educational programming and diverse exhibitions, including nationally and internationally recognized traveling exhibitions.
 
Chaffee Barbershop Museum
479-452-4554

Visit this restored barbershop where enlistees, including Elvis Presley in 1958, received their signature Army buzz cuts. The museum features memorabilia from the base used by the Army to house German prisoners of war, Cuban refugees and relocated Vietnamese citizens.

Built in the early 1940s, Fort Chaffee served as a training facility for soldiers heading to the front lines of World War II. Today, the post is used for training National Guard troops.

“Biloxi Blues,” “Tuskegee Airmen” and “A Soldier’s Story” were all filmed at Fort Chaffee. The Barbershop Museum is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Admission is free.

Fort Smith Museum of History
320 Rogers Ave.
479-783-7841

For more than 100 years, the Fort Smith Museum of History has been telling the intriguing and exciting stories of Fort Smith’s colorful past.

The museum acquires, preserves, exhibits and interprets objects of historical significance relevant to the Greater Fort Smith Region from frontier justice to manufacturing.

A gift shop full of unusual gifts and a 1920s soda fountain are also available for guests. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children 6-11.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday year-round, and also from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Fort Smith National Historic Site
301 Parker Ave.
479-783-3961

At the Fort Smith National Historic Site, visitors can walk where soldiers drilled, pause along the Trail of Tears and stand where justice was served. The park includes the remains of two frontier forts, the Federal Court for “Hanging Judge” Isaac C. Parker, the barracks/courthouse/jail, gallows and J.M. Sparks 1887 home.

The site is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission is $4 for ages 16 and above. Individuals ages 15 and younger get in free when accompanied by an adult.

Fort Smith Trolley Museum
100 S. Fourth St.
479-783-0205

The Fort Smith Trolley Museum is full of fascinating displays of vintage cabooses, passenger cars, locomotives and railroad and other transportation memorabilia with a Frisco 4003 Steam Locomotive on display. Visitors can take a ride on a 1926 restored Birney Streetcar for a nostalgic ride through downtown.

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. with free admission.

The trolley runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1-5 p.m. Sunday during the summer (May 1 to Oct. 31). From Nov. 1 to April 30 winter hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tokens are $2 for adults and $1 for children.

McClure Amphitheater
7201 Massard Road
(479) 784-2368

Originally built in 1953 at Fort Chaffee for Army training, this recently renovated outdoor stadium offers a beautiful view of Fort Smith as well as a performance area, benches, pavilions and a walking trail. The entire facility may be rented at a daily rate of $100 with a $100 deposit.

Miss Laura’s Visitor Center
2 North B St.
479- 783-8888

Miss Laura’s, the only bordello listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is now the unique setting for the Fort Smith Visitor Center. Built just before the turn of the century as the city’s Riverfront Hotel, the ornate building soon became widely known as “Miss Laura’s,” the premier social club in the rough-and-tumble part of Fort Smith along the Arkansas River.

Today, visitors can expect a tour of the building any day of the week to learn more about our colorful past, and get the latest information on area attractions and events.

The center is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-4:30 p.m. Sunday.

U.S. National Cemetery
522 Garland and South Sixth streets
479-783-5345

Land was set aside for a military cemetery when the first fort was built in 1817. Granted national status in 1867, the 21-acre U.S. National Cemetery contains almost 13,000 graves. Some of its most famous residents include Judge Isaac Parker, Darby’s Rangers founder William O. Darby and numerous federal marshals.

The cemetery is known for its colorful “Avenue of Flags” displayed each year on patriotic holidays and for “Christmas Honors”, when each grave is decorated with a wreath each Christmas. Cemetery gates are open daily with office hours from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and is closed on all federal holidays except Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Admission is free.

Van Buren Historic Main Street
479-474-5155

Art galleries, antique shops, boutiques, Victorian accessories, restaurants and historical attractions all dot historic Main Street located in downtown Van Buren. Attractions include the Crawford County Bank Building where marble mantles, lavatories, waterworks and electric lights were the marvel of Van Buren’s first bank.

There is also the Crawford County Courthouse that was built in 1842 and is the oldest working courthouse west of the Mississippi.

The Old Frisco Depot, built in 1901, is also located on Main Street and has been restored and serves as the Van Buren Visitors Center.

The depot is the departure point for the Arkansas and Missouri passenger railroad that travels through the scenic Ozark Mountains.

Darby House
311 General Darby St.
479- 782-3388

The Darby Foundation, founded in 1977, restored the boyhood home of William O. Darby, famed leader of Darby’s Rangers in World War II.

The house is a tribute and memorial to Darby and all U.S. Rangers and contains artifacts from Cisterna, Italy, the sister city to Fort Smith. The Darby House is open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is free.