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Touring Fort Smith

A lovely stopover across the Arkansas border



 

When should a tourist excursion begin with a trip to a bordello? Before getting too worked up, bear in mind that the site ain’t what it used to be – the visitor center for Fort Smith, Arkansas, is now housed in a National Register of Historic Places building … which once was one of the city’s turn-of-the-last-century bawdy houses. In Fort Smith, the hospitality has never ended – just changed for the better.

I have a great love of and fascination with history, and Fort Smith offers a heaping helping of the subject. And though it’s across the state line, Oklahomans will find their history intertwined with events which took place here.

As early as 1808, Cherokee in the east were being encouraged to move west. The first fort at Fort Smith was built in 1817 to keep peace between the resident Osage in the area and arriving Cherokees. Later, when removal became mandatory, many of the Native Americans, particularly the Cherokee, entered Indian Territory near the fort.

A second fort was built in 1838. This outpost became a supply depot during the Civil War and changed hands several times. The military abandoned the fort in 1871.

In 1872, the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas, which had jurisdiction over Indian Territory, took over a former fort barracks. It became, most famously, the site of “Hanging Judge” Isaac Parker’s courtroom. And parts of the building are preserved in the National Historic Site Visitor Center and museum.

A great deal of history in the museum involves the Indian removals – “Trail of Tears” – and their impact on the tribes. Indian Territory also gets lots of attention for the variety of miscreants who terrorized the Territory.

Surprisingly, Judge Parker himself was actually not a proponent of the death penalty. The only crimes that warranted the ultimate verdict were rape and murder. A former U.S. Congressman from Missouri, Parker championed education and supported women’s suffrage. His nickname probably sends him spinning in his grave, which is nearby in the Fort Smith National Cemetery.

For architectural history, check out the Belle Grove Historic District, a 22-block area which features several historic houses open to the public. My favorite is the Clayton House: Originally built in the 1850s, it was enlarged to an elegant, Italianate-style Victorian in the 1880s by William Henry Harrison Clayton, federal prosecutor in Judge Parker’s court. The house is completely furnished with ornate period pieces, including several belonging to the Clayton family.

 


 

 

More Art-ifacts

Fort Smith appreciates its past – but doesn’t live there. An unusual art project, Unexpected, has attracted international artists by offering them massive “canvases.” Selected artists are given carte blanche to create murals on the walls of many of the town’s buildings. The project’s purposes include revitalization of the downtown area and stimulating interest in art in the community, and their creations range from abstract or fantastic to photo-realistic. Most are painted, but some are structural or sculptural.

During an annual 10-day festival, the public can watch the works being created. But the wonderful thing is that they can be enjoyed year-round.

Jack and I had only a short time in Fort Smith, and a full itinerary. We took a late afternoon tour of some of the art sites. We saw murals by London-based urban artist D*Face and a sculptural piece, “Fox,” by Portuguese artist Bordalo II, who used trash and found objects to create his work. Probably my favorite piece was “American Heroes” by Australian artist Guido van Helten. Giant, photo-realistic portraits of workers adorn a local feed mill. The monochromatic triptych depicts three local workers – a female, African-American business owner, a Native American member of a historic re-enactment group and a World War II veteran who worked for the company that owns the mill.

Another project bringing locals and visitors downtown is the Park at West End. This quirky urban park features a 1935 Ferris wheel from the San Diego World’s Fair and an ornately painted Italian carousel. Funky figures populate the park including a life-sized elephant and giraffe, and one of D*Face’s murals, “War Paint.”

 


 

 

Famous in the Future

For years Miss Laura (a.k.a. Carolyn Joyce, Convention and Visitors Bureau Tour and Travel Sales Director) has been telling me about the proposed United States Marshals Museum. And, frankly, I wasn’t terribly excited – just another history museum.

Finally, ground has been broken and a tentative date set for opening a year from this fall. I got to see renderings and hear about the exhibits – what’s actually going to be covered in the museum – and let me tell you, this is really going to be special.

First off, when I pictured the Marshals Museum, all I thought of was Marshal Dillon. I didn’t realize that the Marshal Service was founded by George Washington. And this new museum will cover its more than 200 years of service.

According to Patrick Weeks, President and CEO, the museum won’t have exhibits. He says, “exhibits are things, this museum will have experiences. Our purpose is to inspire thoughts and emotions through telling stories in unique, creative, innovative, outside-the-box ways.”

The design team is the same team that created the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. I visited that museum last year and was blown away. The United States Marshals Museum, utilizing interactive features and augmented reality, is going to be a blast. 

But don’t wait until next year – come to Fort Smith now. There’s much more to do than we had time to do. And there’ll be a lot more by the time the Marshals Museum is open. A direct trip takes less than three hours. Or you could do it the way we did – take the long route. Drive the Talimena Scenic Byway, then spend the night in Fort Smith. Just make sure you stay more than a day!

 

 

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Calendar

December 2018

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
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Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
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A pop-up shop village & Christmas tree lot in Midtown, OKC for the Holiday season. Shops rotate weekly!

Cost: Free

Where:
Holiday Pop-Up Shops
399 NW 10th St
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Telephone: 405.514.5205
Contact Name: Cleo Rajon
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Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
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Telephone: 479.418.5700
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The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
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Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
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Grab your family and friends for an incredible performance and reimagining of the classic holiday story! Follow Carlos on his hip hop journey to self-discovery through magical lands filled with...

Cost: $20 presale; $25 at the door

Where:
OCCC
7777 S May
Oklahoma City, OK  73159
View map »


Sponsor: RACE Dance Company
Telephone: 405.410.4978
Contact Name: Hui Poos
Website »

More information

Grab your family and friends for an incredible performance and reimagining of the classic holiday story! Follow Carlos on his hip hop journey to self-discovery through magical lands filled with...

Cost: $20 presale; $25 at the door

Where:
OCCC
7777 S May
Oklahoma City, OK  73159
View map »


Sponsor: RACE Dance Company
Telephone: 405.410.4978
Contact Name: Hui Poos
Website »

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Elsa and Anna host this holiday spectacular full of Christmas magic - with a drop-in visit from the big man himself: Santa Claus! Featuring high-quality professional performers from Project...

Cost: $35

Where:
The Station at Central Park
700 S Broadway Avenue
Moore , OK  73160
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Sponsor: Project Princess
Telephone: 405.777.2411
Contact Name: Brooke Ashely
Website »

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You’re invited to hear Sandi Patty in a free concert for the whole family in the Crossings OKC Sanctuary. Sandi, her family and the Voices of Crossings Choir and Orchestra will share the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crossings Community Church - OKC Campus
14600 North Portland
Oklahoma City, OK  73134
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Sponsor: Crossings Community Church
Telephone: 405.302.1258
Contact Name: Lori Bunyar
Website »

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The American Spirit Dance Company Presents Home for the Holidays Thursday, December 6, 8:00 PM, Kirkpatrick Theatre Friday, December 7, 8:00 PM, Kirkpatrick Theatre Saturday, December 8,...

Cost: $18.85 - $29.85

Where:
Oklahoma City University
2501 N. Blackwelder
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: The American Spirit Dance Company
Telephone: 405.208.4955
Contact Name: Ryan Barrett
Website »

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The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

Upcoming Casting Calls in Oklahoma City Location: Provided via email Send headshots, measurements, resume and preferred audition time to casting@princessparty.com We are seeking actors who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Provided via email
Provided via email
Oklahoma City, OK  73112
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Sponsor: The Princess Party Co.
Telephone: 616.426.6108
Contact Name: Skyler
Website »

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Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

A pop-up shop village & Christmas tree lot in Midtown, OKC for the Holiday season. Shops rotate weekly!

Cost: Free

Where:
Holiday Pop-Up Shops
399 NW 10th St
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.514.5205
Contact Name: Cleo Rajon
Website »

More information

A Comedy by Michael Hollinger No menu necessary at the world's greatest restaurant, the Café du Grand Boeuf in Paris. Why? "Because we have everything," headwaiter...

Cost: $5 to $25

Where:
Carpenter Square Theatre
800 W. Main
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: Carpenter Square Theatre
Telephone: 405.232.6500
Contact Name: Rhonda M. Clark
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

A pop-up shop village & Christmas tree lot in Midtown, OKC for the Holiday season. Shops rotate weekly!

Cost: Free

Where:
Holiday Pop-Up Shops
399 NW 10th St
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.514.5205
Contact Name: Cleo Rajon
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

Andy Alligator's is hosting a parents night out: Kids will enjoy supervised fun, food and games while parents have a night out on the town to finish up last-minute shopping without the kids....

Cost: $19.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
Norman, OK  73072
View map »


Telephone: 405.321.7275
Website »

More information

Come enjoy live, local comedy in Oklahoma City's Plaza District. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., and the 2nd Saturday of every month also has a family -friendly show...

Cost: $5 - $15

Where:
OKC Improv
1757 N.W. 16th St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Improv
Telephone: 405.456.9858
Contact Name: Kate McLain-Snipes
Website »

More information

With the original Die Hard quickly becoming one of the most popular Christmas films around, we knew that everybody around town would be showing it. So we figured you know what's better than Die...

Cost: $7.50 - $9.50

Where:
Rodeo Cinema
2221 Exchange Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73108
View map »


Sponsor: VHSANDCHILL
Telephone: 405.503.0050
Contact Name: Sean Peel
Website »

More information

A Comedy by Michael Hollinger No menu necessary at the world's greatest restaurant, the Café du Grand Boeuf in Paris. Why? "Because we have everything," headwaiter...

Cost: $5 to $25

Where:
Carpenter Square Theatre
800 W. Main
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: Carpenter Square Theatre
Telephone: 405.232.6500
Contact Name: Rhonda M. Clark
Website »

More information

Presented By OKC Ballet, with the OKC Philharmonic Tchaikovsky’s familiar score and Artistic Director Robert Mills’ delightful staging of The Nutcracker will fill your heart...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall-Thelma Gaylord Theater
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Ballet
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

A pop-up shop village & Christmas tree lot in Midtown, OKC for the Holiday season. Shops rotate weekly!

Cost: Free

Where:
Holiday Pop-Up Shops
399 NW 10th St
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.514.5205
Contact Name: Cleo Rajon
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Come enjoy live, local comedy in Oklahoma City's Plaza District. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., and the 2nd Saturday of every month also has a family -friendly show...

Cost: $5 - $15

Where:
OKC Improv
1757 N.W. 16th St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Improv
Telephone: 405.456.9858
Contact Name: Kate McLain-Snipes
Website »

More information

With the original Die Hard quickly becoming one of the most popular Christmas films around, we knew that everybody around town would be showing it. So we figured you know what's better than Die...

Cost: $7.50 - $9.50

Where:
Rodeo Cinema
2221 Exchange Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73108
View map »


Sponsor: VHSANDCHILL
Telephone: 405.503.0050
Contact Name: Sean Peel
Website »

More information

Presented By OKC Ballet, with the OKC Philharmonic Tchaikovsky’s familiar score and Artistic Director Robert Mills’ delightful staging of The Nutcracker will fill your heart...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall-Thelma Gaylord Theater
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Ballet
Website »

More information

A Comedy by Michael Hollinger No menu necessary at the world's greatest restaurant, the Café du Grand Boeuf in Paris. Why? "Because we have everything," headwaiter...

Cost: $5 to $25

Where:
Carpenter Square Theatre
800 W. Main
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: Carpenter Square Theatre
Telephone: 405.232.6500
Contact Name: Rhonda M. Clark
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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