Old State House Museum
The historic Old State House opened in 1836, serving as Arkansas's first state capitol building until 1911. It is now home to a state history museum. A National Historic Landmark, the Old State House is the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi River. Permanent exhibits in the museum include: Pillars of Power, exploring the history of the Old State House; Arkansas's First Families, featuring 30 Arkansas First Ladies' gowns; Grandmother's Cottage, and a hands-on children's exhibit; the Arkansas Wilderness gallery and the 1836 and 1885 House of Representatives chambers.
Backstory and Context
Gideon Shryock, a Kentucky architect, designed the building. He originally envisioned a very opulent Greek revival style building but the plans had to be scaled back a bit. It was constructed between 1833 and 1842. This particular style of building was extremely popular during this time period, especially in the South. It features large white pillars in the front with the large porticos and the interior contains marble fireplaces. The materials used to construct the building were all obtained locally and the bricks that were used were formed by slave labor.
The building would be home to the state capital until 1912 when a new building was constructed. Before this time the building would see a lot of history take place within its walls. Prior to its official completion in 1837, the legislature moved into the building. Due to the loud noises of the construction tensions ran high and a knife fight actually broke out among the legislatures and construction workers. Not much else is reported on the incident, however. The Old State House was the location of the ratification of the Arkansas Constitution in 1874 and during the Civil War, it was used by Union troops for a short period when they occupied Little Rock.
After the opening of the new capital building, the Old State House became home to many different organizations. It was renamed the Arkansas War Memorial in 1921, becoming a place for patriotic organizations to meet. In 1947, it was designated a museum for Arkansas culture and history and contains several Civil War exhibits, pottery, and quilts. Throughout the 1990s, it underwent a lot of restoration renovations and was deemed a National Historic Landmark in 1997.