Old Washington Historic State Park
Located in Washington, Arkansas, Old Washington Historic State Park offers insight into a nineteenth century community and a glimpse at the people and events of the Territorial, Antebellum, Civil War and Reconstruction eras in Arkansas' history.
The Park includes both historic public and private buildings as well as many of Washington's nineteenth century landscape features - streets that have never been paved, catalpa and other ornamental trees which have shaded the community for 150 years. The historic structures and grounds give a fascinating view of Washington and a taste of the peace and beauty of southwest Arkansas.
Established in 1824, the town of Washington was a convenient stop for travelers on the rugged Southwest Trail leading to Texas. It soon became the economic, political and cultural center for a large rural population in Hempstead County, Arkansas. The area's wealth came from cotton and other agricultural products including corn, livestock, and fruit. The townspeople added valuable skills in a number of professions. By 1860 Washington and vicinity had sixteen doctors, fifteen carpenters, nine teachers, nine blacksmiths, three carriage makers, seventeen lawyers, fifteen merchants, six printers and three hotel keepers. During the Civil War, Washington boomed while serving as the state's Confederate Capital after Little Rock was taken by the Union Army in 1863.
When the Cairo and Fulton Railroad bypassed the town in 1874, Washington's heyday was ending. The following year, fire destroyed 4 + blocks of the business district. Another fire in 1883 engulfed twenty-four more businesses, yet the town refused to die. The Washington preservation movement began in 1929 when the Arkansas Legislature approved $5,000 for restoring Arkansas' Confederate Capitol - the first state funds for historic preservation in Arkansas. In 1958, the citizens of Washington formed the Pioneer Washington Restoration Foundation to preserve the town's other historic structures. Old Washington Historic State Park was established in 1973. The Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives, dedicated to collecting and preserving documents and photographs of southwest Arkansas, began in 1978. In 1980, the Ethnic Minority Memorabilia Association was incorporated to preserve and interpret black history. Today, these organizations, and the citizens of Washington, work together to preserve and interpret the town's nineteenth century story.
1. Brunson House (c. 1860) - This elegant home with both Greek Revival and ltalianate influences was constructed by Dr. Robert Brunson in Columbus, Arkansas. In 1987 the house was relocated by the Foundation to its present location. It awaits restoration.
2. Monroe House (1855) - John Field and Eli V. Collins probably constructed this home for the foreman of their steam saw mill near this site. The Monroe family acquired the home in 1890 and donated it to the State Park in 1978.
3. Woodlawn Plantation House (1853) - This two-story Greek Revival Home was built in Columbus, Arkansas. The Woodlawn House, similar architecturally to the Judge A. B. Williams House which stood on this site c. 1852-1934, was moved to Washington in 1990. Exterior restoration undertaken by the Pioneer Washington Restoration Foundation.
4. Trimble House (c. 1847) - In 1978, the John D. Trimble heirs donated their family home and furnishings to the Foundation. The home interprets three generations of Trimble family history.
5. WPA Gym (1940) - A gym, cafeteria and auditorium for Washington schools from 1940 to 1975. Used for special events and programming.
6. Hempstead County Courthouse (1874) - The seat of justice until 1939 when the county seat moved to Hope, Arkansas. Was the Washington school, 1940-1975. Today it contains the 1874 Courtroom, the State Park Visitor Center, state park offices and houses the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives.
7. Methodist Church (1861) - Constructed by the oldest continuous Methodist congregation in Arkansas (organized 1818), this is recognized to be one of the finest Greek Revival churches in the state. Church owned.
8. Hempstead County Jail (1918) - County jail until 1939. Privately owned.
9. Pioneer Washington Restoration Foundation Offices
10. Peck House (c. 1840) - This simple farmer's home was built by John White north of Nashville, Arkansas. In 1983 it was moved to Washington and restored by the Foundation. Foundation owned.
11. Presbyterian Cemetery (c. 1860) - The final resting place for Washington pioneers as well as Confederate soldiers.
12. Washington Baptist Church - Reconstructed in 1987 to resemble the c. 1845 Mt. Zion Baptist Church which stood at this location until destroyed by a tornado in 1946.
13. Stuart House (c. 1842) - Constructed by Martin Monday, a saddler. After passing through various hands it was purchased by A.O. Stuart in 1868. His wife, Ruth McEnery Stuart, became a well-known American author in the late nineteenth century. Her works include a series of short stories set in "Simpkinsville," in reality, Washington, Arkansas. Foundation owned.
14. Tavern Inn - Built by the Poineer Washington Restoration Foundation in the 1960's to represent a nineteenth century inn.
15. Washington City (Pilkinton) Hall
16. Crouch House (1857) - This Greek Revival home was constructed by Augustus Crouch on the southwestern edge of Washington. It was moved to its present location by the Foundation in 1980 and the exterior restored. It stands on the site of a similar house which burned in 1903.
17. Williams' Tavern (1832) - John W. Williams built this tavern house at Marlbrook, seven miles northeast of Washington on the Southwest Trail. The Foundation and the State Park together moved and restored the tavern. It serves as the park restaurant.
18. Purdom House (c. 1850) - Dr. James A. L. Purdom practiced medicine in Washington from 1845 until his death in 1866. His home was restored by the State Park in 1978.
19. Williamson House (c. 1850) - Built by the Carrigan family on the north edge of Washington. In 1908, John Williamson, founder of Haygood Seminary, a school dedicated to training black teachers and preachers in Washington, purchased the home. In 1988 the Foundation moved the building to the site of the Borden-Page house. It has been stabilized for later restoration.
20. Royston House (1845) - John Brooks built this Greek Revival house for Grandison D. Royston and family. A lawyer and planter, Royston served in the 1836 and 1874 Arkansas Constitutional Conventions and was a member of the Confederate House of Representatives during the Civil War.
21. School of Bladesmithing - Constructed by the Foundation as a training facility operated by Texarkana College. It is the only school in the world devoted to the expansion of the skills and knowledge of bladesmithing.
22. Sanders House (c. 1845) - Simon T. Sanders, county clerk from 1839-1869, lived here with his family until the late 1870's. Sanders' position as county clerk placed him at the center of Washington's social and political life. This classic Greek Revival home interprets the life-style of the 1850's through an interior restoration in 1991.
23. Presbyterian Church (1889) - Built to replace an earlier church destroyed by fire. The Carpenter Gothic style is enhanced by the two-toned paint scheme. Church owned.
24. B.W. Edwards Weapons Museum (c. 1925) - This former bank houses a large weapons exhibit including matchlocks, flintlocks, muskets, rifles, shotguns, revolvers, and Bowie knives.
25. Black History Museum (c. 1895) - This building was moved to Washington and restored at its present location in 1982. The Museum is managed by the Ethnic Minority Memorabilia Association (E.M.M.A.)
26. Washington City Fire Station
27. Printing Museum (c. 1915) - Washington's Post Office and a bank in earlier days, it now houses the State Park's collection of printing equipment.
28. Washington City Post Office
29. Hempstead County Courthouse (1836-1874) - Governor Harris Flanagin chose this county courthouse as the Confederate Capitol of Arkansas following the capture of Little Rock in 1863. From 1874 to 1914 this served as Washington's school. In 1929, the United Daughters of the Confederacy persuaded the Arkansas Legislature to provide funds to save the structure.
30. Magnolia Tree (planted c. 1839) - The largest in Arkansas planted by Grandison D. Royston near his law office.
31. Royston Log House (c. 1835) - In 1986 this saddle- bag log house was moved for restoration by the Foundation from the Royston Plantation northeast of Washington. It is now part of the State Park interpretive program.
32. Pioneer Cemetery (1824-1860) - Washington's earliest cemetery.
33. Block House (c. 1832) - Built by the Abraham Block family, this home is one of the few Federal-style structures remaining in southwest Arkansas and in 1959, was the first restoration project undertaken by the Foundation. The exterior was returned to its original design in 1987.
34. Blacksmith Shop - Built by the Foundation in 1961, the blacksmith shop is an interpretation center with a working forge. Washington's most famous blacksmith, James Black, is credited with forging the original Bowie knife for Jim Bowie.
35. Washington Public School (1914) - The Washington school until 1940. Currently the State Park Collection Management Facility.
36. Goodlett Cotton Gin (1883) - David M. Goodlett constructed this steam-powered cotton gin about six miles from Washington. The gin was used by the Goodlett family until 1966. In 1983, the State Park moved and restored the gin. It is one of the few surviving steam-powered gins in the United States.
Interpretive Services & Special Events
Old Washington Historic State Park sponsors several special events each year. The Jonquil Festival celebrates spring each March with special tours, programs, arts and crafts and music. In May and November, the park hosts an Antique Show and Sale.The Civil War Weekend in September commemorates Washington's role as Confederate Capital and includes living history battles, special tours and demonstrations. In October, Frontier Days celebrates the founding of Washington and Arkansas' pioneer heritage. Activities include a muzzleloading turkey shoot, historic demonstrations, music and a craft show. Each December, nineteenth century decorations transform the town for Christmas and Candlelight. Activities include strolling carolers, twilight tours, music and a special Christmas dinner served at Williams Tavern Restaurant.
Exhibits and activities celebrating Arkansas' heritage and culture occur monthly. Detailed calendars of events are available at the park. Programs, speakers, and slide presentations about the park are available for civic clubs, schools, and other organizations with advance notice. Special tours relating to selected topics in Arkansas history, culture and architecture are also available upon advance request.
Fees & Hours
Visitors may select from several guided walking theme tours and self-guided driving tours. Tickets for tours and programs may be purchased at the Visitor Center (1874 Courthouse). Organized groups of 20 or more with advance notice will receive a discount.
OPEN YEAR ROUND: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
CLOSED: Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year's Day
For Your Dining Pleasure
Williams Tavern Restaurant - (501) 983-2890
Hours: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. daily
Evening Hours during special events and for special parties.Serving meals with warm southern hospitality is a tradition at Williams Tavern Restaurant at Old Washington Historic State Park. Join us for lunch in the historic 1832 tavern building which continues to serve our guests traditional southern cuisine. Williams Tavern Restaurant is also available for special evening parties. To plan a special evening in the historic tavern, call (501) 983-2890. Our tavern also offers extended evening hours during park festivals and events. Please contact the Tavern for details concerning particular special events hours and menus.
The park is on Highway 4, nine miles northwest of Hope, and eighteen miles southeast of Nashville. From Interstate 30, take Exit 30, turning north on Highway 4.
For further information on fees, hours, or events, contact:
Old Washington Historic State Park
PO Box 98
Washington, Arkansas 71862
Telephone: Mon. - Fri. (501) 983-2684
Telephone: Sat. - Sun. (501) 983-2733
For information on Arkansas' other fine state parks, contact:
Arkansas State Parks
One Capitol Mall, 4A-900
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
Telephone: (501) 682-1191
All park services are provided on a nondiscriminatory basis. Arkansas State Parks is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
Old Washington Historic State Park Travel Q&A
What's your favorite hike? Where's the best campsite? Join the conversation! Ask Your Question