Fort Smith: A Treasure Trove of History

Fort Smith, Arkansas, is a town rich in history with its eyes firmly fixed on the future. The landmarks of the city’s proud past abound. From Miss Laura’s Visitor Center to the Fort Smith National Historic Site as well as the Fort Smith Museum of History and the Trail of Tears Path to Chaffee Crossing Historic District, this is a community with a strong sense of place and purpose.

It you like a good story, you’ll love Fort Smith. Today, this town of 90,000 people (Arkansas’ second largest city) has the history, tales and attractions of a much larger city. You’ll relive a colorful history at places like Miss Laura’s Visitor Center, the first former bordello listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which has been restored to its Victorian splendor. Make Miss Laura’s your first stop and enjoy a free tour as well as pick up maps, brochures and information about the city’s many attractions.

Beware the ‘Hanging Judge’

The Fort Smith National Historic Site showcases the rough-and-tumble history of the town, with remnants of the first and second forts as well as the barracks. Visit the courtroom of Judge Isaac C. Parker (known as “The Hanging Judge” for sentencing 181 people to hang, 71 of whom were executed on the site) and step inside the old jail known as “Hell on the Border.”

The Fort Smith Museum of History is housed in a four-story building next to the National Historic Site and contains artifacts and exhibits chronicling the city’s storied past. Here, you can catch an electric trolley that ran in our downtown in the 1920’s, now restored and back on the tracks.

Fort Smith has also developed a unique reputation as a city with a passion for the arts. This is especially true since 2015, when The Unexpected project catapulted the city onto the world stage as an international destination for urban contemporary art. It has breathed new life into the historic streets of downtown Fort Smith with a growing collection of over 30 mural and sculpture pieces. This passion for the arts is also shared through the Fort Smith Little Theatre, Fort Smith Symphony and the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum to name a few.

Elvis Became a G.I. Here

Fans of Elvis Presley will want to visit the Chaffee Barbershop Museum in the Chaffee Crossing Historic District. It features the restored barbershop where Elvis received the famous G.I. buzz cut as he was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 25, 1958. The Chaffee Military Museum chronicles Fort Chaffee’s role in five wars and multiple resettlement operations.

A coming attraction that will provide a seamless blend of modern architecture and living history is the U.S. Marshals Museum, set to open in the fall of 2019. This national museum will honor the 230 year history of the U. S. Marshals Service, the oldest law enforcement agency in the United States. This Service was put in place by our first President, George Washington.

Come Live the History in Fort Smith; the Star of the Western Frontier!

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