May 4 – May 12, 2012
Want to know what we are doing to recognize travel and tourism this week?
Yup, it’s that time of year, National Travel and Tourism Week but we would like to view it as “Fort Smith Travel and Tourism Week”. A trip to Fort Smith is a historic journey into the past. Standing in the same spots where history was made can stir the senses and raise the arm hair. Boring is definitely not a word that will come to mind when you discover Fort Smith’s history. From the Civil War soldiers and U.S. Marshals and Deputy Marshals who enforced the law to the dozens of men hanged at the Fort’s infamous gallows, to the heart-wrenching tales of the last leg on the Trail of Tears, Fort Smith is full of jaw-dropping stories.
Fort Smith Celebrating National Tourism Week
As you might have heard by now, Fort Smith was named the “Top True Western Town for 2013″ by True West Magazine. To celebrate and promote this recognition, signage to this effect will be added to all “Welcome to Fort Smith” sign posts!! Join us May 8th at 2 p.m. at the Southeast corner of Garrison Avenue Bridge for the dedication ceremony. State Senator Jake Files, who was instrumental in securing permission from the Arkansas State Highway Commission to erect these signs, will assist with the installation the first sign. He will be joined by Mayor Sandy Sanders, who also serves as the Chairman of the Fort Smith Advertising and Promotion Commission.
Van Buren & Fort Smith Celebrating National Tourism Week
The Arkansas Welcome Center at Van Buren/Fort Smith will be celebrating throughout Tourism Week by treating tourists with Arkansas-made products. They will have samples of Yarnell’s Ice Cream, Riceland Rice, Shoestring Potatoes from Allen Canning, Little Debbie’s snacks from McKee Baking, Planters Peanuts, Kopper Kettle Candies, Petit Jean Hot Dogs, Pickled Vegetables from Old South, and Day Planners from Dayspring. On Wednesday, May 8th at 11:30 a.m., the mayors of Van Buren and Fort Smith will read an official proclamation announcing the week as Tourism Week. The Fort Smith and Van Buren Advertising & Promotion Commissions will capture a lucky tourist and make them an honorary Deputy Marshal. They will also be presented with a special gift.
John and Carol Aebi, 2012′s surprised tourists!
And of course…don’t forget that Fort Smith, Arkansas has a huge array of tourist attractions!
Miss Laura’s Social Club – Fort Smith Visitor Center
Our Visitor Center is located in historic downtown Fort Smith, in a restored former bordello! Make us your first stop and we’ll give you a tour of this Victorian mansion which has been restored to its original ambiance (the first bordello listed on The National Register of Historic Places). Perched on the banks of the mighty Arkansas River, an exciting adventure into the past awaits as you begin to discover this once boisterous border town of Fort Smith!
Of the seven houses on “The Row” in 1900, Miss Laura’s is the only survivor and has served as Fort Smith’s official Visitor Center since 1992.
Bring a heart that loves history and let us show you ways to fill it! We’ll provide a guided tour and offer lots of ideas and brochures to help you get the most out of your visit.
Miss Laura’s Visitor Center
2 North B Street
Fort Smith, AR 72901
- Phone: 479-783-8888
- Toll-Free: 800-637-1477
- Fax: 479-784-2421Bot
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Perhaps the most prominent stop is the Fort Smith National Historic Site, which includes the remains of the original 1817 fort on the Arkansas River. One of the highlights is the two-story barracks from the second fort, which in the early 1870s became the Federal Courthouse for the Western District of Arkansas. Inside is the restored courtroom of the famed “Hangin’ Judge” Isaac C. Parker, and the dingy frontier jail aptly named “Hell on the Border.”
Open daily except Christmas and New Year’s
9 a.m. – 5 p.m., 7 days a week
Admission $5. Ages 16 and under, Free
Fort Smith Museum of History
Adjacent to the Historic Site is the Fort Smith Museum of History, a three-story building containing numerous exhibits, displays and artifacts that tell the story of Fort Smith’s colorful history: from the first fort in 1817, through the westward expansion, the Civil War, Fort Chaffee, and the emergence of a modern city. One of the highlights is an old-fashioned drug store and a working soda fountain.
Closed on Sunday and Monday.
Fort Smith Trolley Museum/ Trolley Rides
During the 1920s and 30s, streetcars were popular in most cities. The Fort Smith Trolley Museum features a working, fully-restored 1926 electric streetcar that makes regular half-mile runs between the Fort Smith National Cemetery and a west-end stop at the Varsity Sports Grill on Garrison Avenue (Main Street). Tickets can be purchased at the Fort Smith Museum of History.
Inside the Trolley Museum—a stop on the route—is a fascinating collection of old railroad passenger cars, engines, old Fort Smith buses, and other transportation artifacts.
See Trolley Museum website for schedule. Rides $2 for adults, $1 for children. Group rates available.
Originally built in the 1850s, this classic Victorian Renaissance baroque mansion was greatly enlarged when bought in 1882 by William Henry Harrison Clayton, who was District Attorney during Judge Parker’s tenure on the federal bench. Now fully restored and containing some Clayton family period pieces, the home features a double-door entrance and hand-carved staircases. It exemplifies the beauty and grace of the Victorian era, and is reportedly quite haunted.
Ask about the Lamplight Ghost Tours, Clayton Conversations special events, and upcoming children’s programs. Groups of 25 or more can schedule a private Victorian High Tea served for your group!
General William O. Darby, founder of the famed “Darby’s Rangers” group that fought in Italy during World War II, grew up in this modest home. Today it contains numerous mementos of his early years. Darby was killed in action in May of 1945. Also on display are Rangers’ memorabilia and items from the Fort Smith’s sister city, Cisterna di Latina, Italy. Darby’s Rangers evolved into what is now the Army Rangers.
More Darby exhibits are on permanent display at the Fort Smith Museum of History, and the General is buried in the Fort Smith National Cemetery.
Belle Grove Historic District
Beautifully restored homes and buildings line the streets of the 22-block Belle Grove historic District and reflect an architectural span of 150 years, including Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne, Eastlake Victorian Renaissance, Gothic Revival, Craftsman, Prairie, Federal and Neoclassical architecture. Structures in Belle Grove include the homes of noted figures such as William Henry Clayton, the prosecuting attorney for Judge Parker’s court; Southern Jewish author Thyra Samptor Winslow; Fort Smith forefather John Rogers; General William O. Darby, founder of Darby’s Rangers (which evolved into the modern Army Rangers), the widow of brevet Brigadier General Benjamin Bonneville, former commander of Fort Smith and famed Oregon Trail explorer; and other leading citizens of early Fort Smith. The District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s. Brochures for self-guided walking tours are available at Miss Laura’s Visitors Center.
Newly added residential historic districts to the National Register of Historic Places include Fort Smith’s May-Lecta-Sweet and Fishback neighborhoods, which are similarly full of original architecture and beautiful streets. Garrison Avenue and the downtown area also include notable commercial architecture, much of which has been preserved or restored over the past 80-120 years.
United States National Cemetery
When the first Fort Smith was plotted 1817, land was set aside for a military cemetery. Granted national status in 1867, the 21-acre U.S. National Cemetery contains approximately 13,000 graves, among them Judge Isaac Parker, General William O. Darby, founder of the “Darby’s Rangers,” and Bertha Gale Dean, long-time madam of Miss Laura’s Social Club. It is one of two national cemeteries in the United States that have both Union and Confederate soldiers buried.
More than 80 deputy U.S. Marshals who served under Federal Judge Isaac Parker and least 28 outlaws ordered hanged by Judge Parker in the late 19th century are buried in Fort Smith’s 20-acre Oak Cemetery, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
Every spring, a Fort Smith Tales of the Crypt living history event takes place during a weekend in April or May. Costumed re-enactors give free guided tours of the cemetery, stopping to hear the colorful tales of those buried there from actors portraying their characters.
Want more travel and tourist information….visit http://www.fortsmith.org
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