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|Historic Washington State Park|
The Old State House, Washington, Arkansas
|Location||Washington, Arkansas, Hempstead, Arkansas, United States|
|Area||101 acres (41 ha)|
|Established||July 1, 1973|
|Governing body||Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Pioneer Washington Preservation Foundation|
|Website||Historic Washington State Park|
Historic Washington State Park (formerly Old Washington Historic State Park) is a 101-acre (41 ha) Arkansas state park in Hemsptead County, Arkansas in the United States. The museum village contains a collection of pioneer artifacts from the town of Washington, Arkansas, which is a former pioneer settlement along the Southwest Trail. Walking interpretive tours are available throughout the 54 buildings. Washington served as a major trading point along the Southwest Trail, evolving into the Hempstead county seat and later the capital of Arkansas from 1863 to 1865 when Little Rock was threatened during the Civil War. The original plat of Washington was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 as the Washington Historic District.
During the 1820s and 1830s, Washington was a stopover for travelers going to Texas. It was originally the county seat of Hempstead County until a new courthouse was completed in Hope, which was designated the seat of government in 1939. The park emphasizes regional 19th century history from 1824 to 1889.It is located in southwestern Arkansas east of Texarkana and near the entrance to Interstate 30.
The Southwest Trail ran from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Red River port of Fulton in Hempstead County some twelve miles from Washington. At the time, the Red River was the border between the United States and Mexico. The trail was a route taken by people headed to Mexican Texas. William B. Travis, Sam Houston, and Davy Crockett each separately traveled through Washington on their way to Texas. In the early 1830s until the 1840s, bands of Cherokee and Choctaw travelled through Old Washington on their way to Indian Territory under the Indian removal policies of U.S. President Andrew Jackson. In 1846, Washington was a mustering point for Arkansas troops marching south to fight under General Zachary Taylor in the Mexican War.
On February 14, 1820, Washington was authorized for a post office. That facility remains the oldest continuous postal operation west of the Mississippi River. A new postal building was dedicated on May 29, 1988, by then U.S. Senator David Hampton Pryor.Washington became a town on George Washington's birthday, February 22, 1824.
From 1863-1865, Old Washington was the site of the Confederate capitol of Arkansas after the fall of Little Rock to Union forces. The original Arkansas Confederate capital, where the refugee government fled, still exists in the park. It is a part of the Camden Expedition Sites, named in part for the town of Camden, Arkansas, in southern Arkansas.
In the early 1864, Washington was threatened by Union forces under the command of Major General Frederick Steele which moved south along the Military Road en route to Shreveport, Louisiana. A Confederate force under the command of Major General Sterling Price blocked Steele's army. The two forces engaged in battle on April 10, 1864, some fourteen miles north of Washington. Steele was forced to move east to Camden, a movement which spared Washington from invasion. This encounter was known as the Skirmish at Prairie D'Ane. Many wounded soldiers were brought to Washington for medical treatment. Several buildings, including the Washington Baptist Church, were turned into hospitals to treat the wounded. Seventy-four unknown Confederate soldiers from this battle were buried in a mass grave in the Washington Presbyterian Cemetery.
In the early 1870s, the Cairo and Fulton Railroad built a line through southwest Arkansas which bypassed Washington. Instead the depot was nine miles away and became the origin of the city of Hope, incorporated on April 8, 1875. Fire swept through Washington on July 3, 1875 and destroyed much of the business district. A second fire occurred on January 21, 1883. Most of the businesses in Washington relocated to Hope, which proposed that it supersede Washington as the county seat. Several fraudulent elections were held over the matter. The Arkansas Supreme Court intervened and, in a ruling in May 1939, declared Hope the county seat.
In 1958, the Pioneer Washington Restoration Foundation began preserving the unique buildings and sites that currently lie within the park. The park was established in 1965 and opened eight years later. The Southwest Regional Archives was established there in 1978. Since that time, more than 200,000 artifacts related to 19th century life have been recovered in the park and is the site of ongoing archaeological research on small-town life.
The historic buildings provide excellent examples of the architectural styles popular in the 19th century American South. Examples on display are Southern Greek Revival, Federal architecture, Gothic Revival, Italianate, and the rough-hewn timber or brace-frame construction of the frontier.
Visitors follow plank board sidewalks along streets that have never been paved. The largest magnolia tree in Arkansas, planted in 1839, also graces the town. Everything within the original 1824 boundaries of the town are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Park tours begin at the previous Hempstead County Courthouse, which was constructed in 1874 and is maintained as the museum headquarters and visitors center. On the top floor, one may meditate in the courtroom where trials and hearings were formerly held. After the county seat was moved to Hope, the 1874 courthouse was used as a school beginning in 1914. A gym was built during the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration. Both are still used for meeting rooms and group rental facilities.
In 1929, the United Daughters of the Confederacy secured state funding to restore the 1836 Hempstead Courthouse. This was the first restoration money ever appropriated by the Arkansas General Assembly. The building now included in Washington Park has paintings of Confederate icons J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and Pierre G.T. Beauregard on the walls.
In 1958, a group of Washington citizens formed the Pioneer Washington Restoration Foundation to preserve the old structures and interpret the history of Washington. They operated tours of some of the historic homes for fifteen years. In 1973, they invited the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism to assist in the preservation and interpretation of the village. The foundation donated property, buildings, and antiques, and Old Washington Historic State Park opened as the then thirty-fourth Arkansas state park on July 1, 1973.
Surrey rides are available on special occasions. The Williams Tavern Restaurant offers country cooking. Part of the funding for Arkansas state parks such as Washington comes from a .125-cent sales tax allocated for Game/Fish and Parks/Tourism.
The park provides a variety of events for local residents and visitors including demonstrations and workshops on blacksmithing, weaving, quilting, sewing, candlemaking, forging, and harness driving.
Historic Washington offers Civil War weekends and reenactments, the Five Trails Rendezvous (commemorating the origin of five Native American trails in the region) held in February, the annual jonquil festival in March, and a Christmas festival and Victorian era Christmas ball. The park is decorated for Christmas each December.
At Historic Washington, the American Bladesmith Society operates the only bladesmithing college in the United States. The program, affiliated with Texarkana College, claims to be the only school in the world dedicated to the art of making knives and swords.
Among the leading figures in the restoration of Old Washington was James H. Pilkinton of Hope, who served as president of the Pioneer Washington Restoration Foundation twice between 1959 and 1990. Others involved in the restoration are Parker O. Westbrook, a former aide to the late U.S. Senator J. W. Fulbright, and Westbrook's sister, Lucille.
Old Washington has been called the "Colonial Williamsburg of the Southwest" or "Colonial Williamsburg of Arkansas", in reference to the Colonial Williamsburg restoration in Virginia which opened in 1957 courtesy of the Rockefeller family.
Historic Washington houses the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives which is the primary center for historical and genealogical research in the region. The archives contain rare books, court documents, newspapers, census information, photographs, scrapbooks, sheet music, and assorted family histories.
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Hempstead County is a county located in the U.S. state of Arkansas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 22,609. The county seat is Hope. Hempstead County is Arkansas's fourth county, formed on December 15, 1818, alongside Clark and Pulaski counties. The county is named for Edward Hempstead, a delegate to the U.S. Congress from the Missouri Territory, which included present-day Arkansas at the time. It is an alcohol prohibition or dry county.
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The Camden Expedition Sites is a national historic landmark consisting of nine nationally significant historic places in southwest Arkansas where events of the Union army's disastrous Camden Expedition of 1864 occurred during the American Civil War. The Union was attempting to take over Shreveport, Louisiana. Each of the sites are individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designated a national historic landmark on April 19, 1994.
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The El Dorado Commercial Historic District encompasses the historic commercial heart of downtown El Dorado, Arkansas. The city serves as the seat of Union County, and experienced a significant boom in growth during the 1920s, after oil was discovered in the area. The business district that grew in this time is anchored by the Union County Courthouse, at the corner of Main and Washington Streets, where the Confederate memorial is also located. The historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003 includes the city blocks surrounding the courthouse, as well as several blocks extending east along Main Street and south along Washington Street. Most of the commercial buildings are one and two stories in height and are built of brick. Notable exceptions include the Exchange Bank building, which was, at nine stories, the county's first skyscraper, and the eight-story Murphy Oil building. There are more than forty contributing properties in the district.
The Hempstead County Courthouse is located at the northwest corner of 5th and Washington Streets in Hope, the county seat of Hempstead County, Arkansas. The five story masonry structure was designed by the Little Rock firm of McAninch and Anderson, and built in 1939 with funding from the Public Works Administration, a depression-era federal jobs program. It is Hope's finest example of Art Deco architecture. Its entry is framed by a series of molded concrete panels, separated by inverted chevrons. The panels depict a variety of industries and professions, including construction, mining, medicine, defense, electricity, farming, and brickmaking. Chevron paneling is repeated in the cornice. The interior of the building is virtually unaltered, except for two courtrooms on the upper floors, which required complete renovation following a lightning-induced fire in 1979. The 1939 building has had a large jail added, but this was done in a sympathetic manner to the original's design.
The Grandison D. Royston House is a historic house at Columbus and Water Streets in Historic Washington State Park, Washington, Arkansas. It is a single-story wood frame structure, about 55 feet (17 m) wide and 51 feet (16 m) deep, with a hip roof pierced by two chimneys with corbelled tops. The main entry is centered under a projecting gable-roof porch, and is framed by sidelights and transom windows. The porch is supported at the front by pairs of square columns with moulded capitals and a square plinth. At the back of the house is a shed-roof addition which housed the kitchen. The interior of the main block is divided into four rooms, two on either side of a large central hall.
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