Historic Washington State Park

Last updated

Historic Washington State Park
Original Courthouse at Historic Washington State Park IMG 1481.JPG
The Old State House, Washington, Arkansas
USA Arkansas location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location of Historic Washington State Park in Arkansas
Usa edcp location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Historic Washington State Park (the United States)
Location Washington, Arkansas, Hempstead, Arkansas, United States
Coordinates 33°46′25.6″N93°41′2.6″W / 33.773778°N 93.684056°W / 33.773778; -93.684056 Coordinates: 33°46′25.6″N93°41′2.6″W / 33.773778°N 93.684056°W / 33.773778; -93.684056
Area101 acres (41 ha) [1]
EstablishedJuly 1, 1973 [1]
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. [2] Walking interpretive tours are available throughout the 54 buildings. [1] 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. [1] The original plat of Washington was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 as the Washington Historic District. [3]


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. [4] It is located in southwestern Arkansas east of Texarkana and near the entrance to Interstate 30.

History of Old Washington

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. [1]

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. [5] Washington became a town on George Washington's birthday, February 22, 1824. [2]

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. [1]

This Methodist Church at Historic Washington State Park is the oldest church of that denomination in Arkansas. Methodist Church at Historic Washington State Park IMG 1467.JPG
This Methodist Church at Historic Washington State Park is the oldest church of that denomination in Arkansas.

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. [1]

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.

Major buildings

1874 Courthouse

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. [1]

Crouch House
Presbyterian Church at Historic Washington Park has a cemetery with a mass grave of Confederate soldiers. Presbyterian Church in Washington, AR IMG 1497.JPG
Presbyterian Church at Historic Washington Park has a cemetery with a mass grave of Confederate soldiers.

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. [8]

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. [1]

Blacksmith shop
1914 school

Museum information

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. [4]

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. [1]

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. [2]

Restoring Old Washington

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. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

Tulsa County, Oklahoma U.S. county in Oklahoma

Tulsa County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. As of the 2010 census, the population was 603,403, making it the second-most populous county in Oklahoma, behind only Oklahoma County. Its county seat and largest city is Tulsa, the second-largest city in the state. Founded at statehood, in 1907, it was named after the previously established city of Tulsa. Before statehood, the area was part of both the Creek Nation and the Cooweescoowee District of Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory.

Hempstead County, Arkansas County in Arkansas

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.

Washington, Arkansas City in Arkansas, United States

Washington is a city in Ozan Township, Hempstead County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 180 at the 2010 census, up from 148 in 2000. It is part of the Hope Micropolitan Statistical Area. The city is home to Historic Washington State Park.

Prescott, Arkansas City in Arkansas, United States

Prescott is a city and the county seat of Nevada County, Arkansas, United States. The community had a population of 3,296 at the 2010 census. Prescott is part of the Hope Micropolitan Statistical Area.

Augustus Hill Garland American politician

Augustus Hill Garland was an American lawyer and Democratic politician from Arkansas, who initially opposed Arkansas' secession from the United States, but later served in both houses of the Congress of the Confederate States and the United States Senate, as well as became the 11th Governor of Arkansas (1874-1877) and the 38th Attorney General of the United States (1885-1889).

Southwest Trail

The Southwest Trail was a 19th-century pioneer route that was the primary passageway for American settlers bound for Texas.

Old State House (Boston) United States historic place

The Old State House is a historic building in Boston, Massachusetts, at the intersection of Washington and State Streets. Built in 1713, it was the seat of the Massachusetts General Court until 1798, and is one of the oldest public buildings in the United States. One of the landmarks on Boston's Freedom Trail, it is the oldest surviving public building in Boston, and now serves as a history museum operated by the Bostonian Society. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and a Boston Landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission in 1994.

American Civil War Museum History museum in Appomattox, Virginia

The American Civil War Museum is a multi-site museum in the Greater Richmond Region of central Virginia, dedicated to the history of the American Civil War. The museum operates three sites: The Museum and White House of the Confederacy and the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar in Richmond, and the Museum of the Confederacy–Appomattox. It maintains a comprehensive collection of artifacts, manuscripts, Confederate imprints, and photographs.

Davidsonville Historic State Park

Davidsonville Historic State Park is a 163-acre (66 ha) Arkansas state park in Randolph County, Arkansas in the United States. Situated on a border between The Ozarks and the Arkansas Delta, the park preserves the remains of the abandoned frontier town of Davidsonville. The town was one of Arkansaw Territory's first settlements when founded in 1815, serving as an important river port town on the Black River. The former townsite was made into a state park in 1957 and a monument was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

West Virginia Independence Hall United States historic place

West Virginia Independence Hall is a historic government building at 1528 Market Street in downtown Wheeling, West Virginia, United States. It was built in 1860 under the supervision of architect Ammi B. Young for the federal government as a custom house, post office and courthouse. It is architecturally significant for its innovative uses of wrought iron as a framing material, and is historically significant for its role in the American Civil War. It housed the Wheeling Convention (1861), as well as the West Virginia Constitutional Convention (1863), which resulted in the separation of Unionist West Virginia from Confederate Virginia. This made it the only state to secede from a Confederate state during the war. The building was originally built as the custom house for the Western District of Virginia, and later became the center of government for the Restored Government of Virginia from 1861 to 1863, with Francis H. Pierpont serving as its governor. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1988. The building is now a state-run museum, housing exhibits on West Virginia history.

McLean County Courthouse and Square United States historic place

The McLean County Courthouse and Square is located in downtown Bloomington, Illinois. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places and encompasses the old McLean County Courthouse and the courthouse-facing sides of three downtown blocks. All 4 floors of the building are now occupied by the McLean County Museum of History for exhibits, collections storage, and offices. The historic buildings at the other side of the square were destroyed by fire in the 1980s. The Square is bordered by four Bloomington streets: Main Street, Center Street, Jefferson Street and Washington Street. The site was home to three previous courthouses before the current one was completed in 1903. The first courthouse at the site was built in 1831, and the second in 1836. The third was built in 1868, but suffered major damage from fire on June 19, 1900.

Camden Expedition Sites National Historic Landmark United States historic place

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.

Confederate State Capitol building (Arkansas) United States historic place

The Confederate State Capitol building in Washington, Arkansas was the capital of the Confederate state government of Arkansas, during 1863–1865, after Little Rock, Arkansas fell to Union forces in the American Civil War. It is located within Historic Washington State Park, and is a National Historic Landmark.

Wilkes County Courthouse (Georgia) United States historic place

The Wilkes County Courthouse is a historic government building and clock tower located in the city of Washington, Georgia, the seat of Wilkes County. The latest in a series of courthouses in the county's history, the current building was completed in 1904 and since that date has been the official home of Wilkes County's Superior Court, and the base of the county's government. On September 18, 1980, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Old Monroe County Courthouse United States historic place

The Old Monroe County Courthouse is a historic courthouse building in Monroeville, Alabama that served as the Monroe County courthouse from 1903 to 1967.

Van Buren Historic District United States historic place

The Van Buren Historic District encompasses eight blocks of historic buildings along Main Street in Van Buren, Arkansas. Many of the structures are pre-1920 Victorian and Italianate buildings closely related to the history of commerce in the city. Positioned between the city's train depot and the Arkansas River, the businesses constituting the Van Buren Historic District have played a vital role in the history and economy of the city and region. The district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic District on April 30, 1976.

El Dorado Commercial Historic District United States historic place

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.

Hempstead County Courthouse United States historic place

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.

Grandison D. Royston House United States historic place

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.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 McDade, Bryan (December 16, 2011). "Historical Washington Museum State Park". The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. The Butler Center. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Historic Washington State Park". Arkansas State Parks Guide, 2011. Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. p. 32. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  3. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Brochure entitled "Programs, Tours, and Activities, Historic Washington State Park, August 7, 2008
  5. Hope Star, Hope, Arkansas, May 30, 1988
  6. B.W. Edwards exhibit, Historic Washington State Park
  7. Thomas Hamilton Simms exhibit, B.W. Edwards Weapon Museum, Historic Washington State Park, Washington Arkansas
  8. Exhibit at 1836 Courthouse, Historic Washington State Park
  9. Exhibit at Washington High School restoration in Washington State Park

Further reading