The original capitol of the great state of Arkansas, the neoclassical Old State House Museum, located in Little Rock on the banks of the Mississippi, now stands as a monument to the birth and growth of this state. Even now, just under two centuries after its foundation, it remains a central point of interest for those looking to learn about Arkansas history.
Construction on the building began back in 1833; three years later, Arkansas would officially become a state, with the building as its House of Representatives. Just one year later, Speaker of the House John Wilson would attack and murder Representative Joseph J Anthony with a Bowie knife on the floor of the newly constructed State House. This moment would begin the capitol building’s legacy as a central hub of some of the most significant events in Arkansas history.
And indeed, in many ways, the State house would come to serve as a direct emblem of the historical upheavals that would come to shape not just the state, but the nation as a whole. Following the nationwide rift of the Civil War, the State House would shift, in the space of a few short years, from a Confederate capitol to a Union military headquarters. Around a decade later, it would be the headquarters of the Brooks-Baxter war, wherein the rivalry between two Republican governors spilled out into the streets. And in the early 20th century, after government operations had moved over to the state’s new capitol building, the Old State House was acquired by the University of Arkansas Medical Department, who would use the space to first develop the Crossett experiment, a ground-breaking investigation into the prevention of hookworm and malaria.
Finally, in 1947, the Old State House was officially converted into a museum. In the decades since, it has served as one of the most essential bastions for preserving the history of Arkansas, from its birth up to the modern day.
Visitors to the Old State House Museum can peruse a number of carefully preserved exhibitions and displays showcasing the history of Arkansas – its people, its politics, and its cultural growth. And should visitors arrive at the right time, they might also catch one of the many exhibitions of local arts and crafts that the museum regularly displays. The Old State House Museum, in short, is the ideal place to immerse yourself in both the history and the culture of the state, and to ensure that your Arkansas trip is one that truly leaves you with a deeper understanding of what makes this great state so unique.