May Heritage Month in Fort Smith


Considering the history and heritage that built Fort Smith, there’s no surprise there will be a plethora of programs in May to celebrate Arkansas Heritage Month. The Department of Arkansas Heritage’s theme for this year is “Saving Our Heritage: Arkansas’s Historic Structures.”

The Fort Smith Museum of History has several events planned. Join Judge and Mrs. Isaac C. Parker from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 4 for a walking tour. Begin at the museum for a short walk of the area while discussing historic buildings still in place and some long gone. The tour explores the story of Fort Smith’s main street from the Garrison Avenue Bridge to the Kannady Block. 

Learn about the first bridge over the Arkansas River, the Reynolds, Davis and Co. Building, Speer Hardware, Marble Hall, Adelaide Hall and Trolley Square.  Learn the story behind the “ghost signs” on the avenue.  Floyd and Sue Robison portray Judge and Mrs. Parker.

Local architect James Reddick will discuss unique features of the Atkinson-Williams Warehouse, which houses the Museum.  Join the Fort Smith Museum of History at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 11 to learn about the wonderful historic building which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1906-07 by Tillman T. Reddick, the building provides an excellent example of early Fort Smith warehouses. As a descendant of T. T. Reddick, James has an interest in the building and was an invaluable source in researching the Museum’s exhibit Progress in a Small Frontier Town:  The History of the Atkinson-Williams Warehouse.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, Chuck Girard will present a pictorial look at the development of Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith’s main street, and several of the buildings and activities that have been located on the avenue.  The Girard Family has a long history in Fort Smith dating to 1846 when Girard Confectionary was located on Commercial Row, the business district along the Arkansas River. The program features historic photographs from the Museum’s collection as well as unique images from Chuck’s personal collection.

In addition to these programs, you can enjoy visiting other historic attractions in Fort Smith, which was named #1 among True West magazine’s Top Ten True Western Towns for 2013.

The rich history of the region and America is preserved on the grounds of the Fort Smith National Historic Site. Located in downtown Fort Smith, the site embraces the remains of two frontier forts and the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas. It commemorates a significant phase of America’s westward expansion, and today stands as a reminder of 80 turbulent years in the history of Federal Indian policy. It includes Judge Parker’s replicated courtroom, “Hell on the Border” jail, and gallows.

A former bordello serves as the city’s visitor center, named Miss Laura’s Visitor Center. And the Fort Smith Museum of History, located in the 1907 Atkinson-Williams Warehouse Building, has been preserving local stories for more than a century.

Exciting for the future is the U.S. Marshals Museum, also to be located downtown on the riverfront. And this is just a touch of what makes Fort Smith a true western town.

Located on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border and near the junction of Interstates 40 and 540, the city is accessible to travelers, vacationers, business groups, and tour coaches.