Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

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!

 

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »You Might Like

Speaker Box: May’s Show Saturation

Exceptional May concerts coming to the Jones Assembly and Tower Theatre; Ariana Grande lights up the Chesapeake Arena.

Magic Carpet Ride

If redecorating is on your mind this spring, find a dose of design magic in these carpets and rugs from local retailers.

Matters of the Mouth

The Oklahoma Dental Association’s Dr. Shannon Griffin talks about Mission of Mercy and the advancement of dental health.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

May 2019

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Start your Sunday morning by perfecting your practice during our outdoor yoga class. Enjoy the beauty of yoga outdoors in the glow of the Ferris Wheel lights! This class welcomes all levels, from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wheeler Ferris Wheel
1701 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
View map »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

MILLER IN MAY HOME TOUR HIGHLIGHTS CHARACTER AND CHARM The 20th anniversary of Miller's beloved home tour Miller Neighborhood's most popular event is back for 2019… and...

Cost: $10 - $30

Where:
Miller Neighborhood
NW 10th to NW 16th, N Villa to N May
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Miller Neighborhood Association
Telephone: 405.642.5982
Contact Name: Elizabeth Beard

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

OKC's premier chamber orchestra, the Oklahoma Virtuosi, presents their season finale concert.  Concert will include: St. Paul's Suite Op.29 No.2 by Gustav Holst,...

Cost: Free

Where:
21C Hotel
900 W. Main St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Website »

More information

As the first anniversary of her sixth album Conversation With A Ghost approaches in June, Italian-born and Austin-based singer-songwriter Giulia Millanta possesses a...

Cost: $15-$20

Where:
The Blue Door
2805 N. McKinley Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: The Blue Door
Telephone: (405) 524-0738
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Piedmont Airlines will be hosting a Information Session for ramp agent jobs at Embassy Suites in OKC. Please plan to spend up to 3 hours with us, as we will have you fill out applications, listen...

Cost: Free

Where:
Embassy Suites
1815 South Meridian Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73108
View map »


Sponsor: Piedmont Airlines
Telephone: 704-359-2477
Contact Name: Nick Calo
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

More than 90 visual artists will line the streets of the Historic Paseo Arts District, selling original artwork in a wide variety of media, from painting and photography to wood and jewelry, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Paseo Arts District
3022 Paseo
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Paseo Arts Association
Telephone: 405-525-2688
Contact Name: Paige Powell
Website »

More information

Enjoy all your favorite activities at the Orr Family Farm for a special price! Admission is only $8 per person on this day only.

Where:
Orr Family Farm
14400 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73170
View map »


Telephone: 405.509.9312
Contact Name: Lauren Daughety

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass this Memorial Day Weekend! Get a full day of fun at Andy Alligator’s Fun Park and Water Park for only $29.99. A Dual Park Pass includes Unlimited Rides &...

Cost: Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass!

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

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags