Old State House (Little Rock)

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Old State House
Old State Capitol Building, Markham & Center Streets, Little Rock (Pulaski County, Arkansas).jpg
The south front of the State house in 1934
Location 300 West Markham, Little Rock, Arkansas
Coordinates 34°44′56.3″N 92°16′19.42″W / 34.748972°N 92.2720611°W / 34.748972; -92.2720611Coordinates: 34°44′56.3″N 92°16′19.42″W / 34.748972°N 92.2720611°W / 34.748972; -92.2720611
Built 1836
Architect Gideon Shryock; George Weigart
Architectural style Greek Revival
NRHP Reference # 69000037
Significant dates
Added to NRHP December 03, 1969[1]
Designated NHL December 9, 1997[2]

The Old State House, also known as the Arkansas State House is the oldest surviving state capitol building west of the Mississippi River. It was the site of Arkansas's 1861 secession debates, as well as the 1868 Constitutional Convention when delegates agreed to ensure voting rights for freedmen and to establish public schools. It is now the home of the Old State House Museum.


The Arkansas State House (2008 view)

The Old State House was commissioned by Territorial Governor John Pope and was constructed between 1833 and 1842. Architect Gideon Shryock, who had previously designed the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, chose a Greek Revival style for the building. The original design was too expensive for the territory, so Shryock's assistant George Weigart changed the plans and oversaw construction.

Both houses of the Arkansas General Assembly moved into the building while construction was ongoing. In 1837 a fatal knife fight between legislators in the Arkansas House of Representatives occurred in the legislative chamber.

Unionists prevailed at an initial, March, 1861 secession convention after the election of President Lincoln. However, after South Carolina fired on Fort Sumter and President Lincoln called up troops, a second convention assembled at the Old State House on the morning of May 6, 1861. After debate, the ordinance for secession officially passed with only five opposing votes. Four opposing delegates relented after unanimity was urged. Isaac Murphy, the delegate from Madison County, held out despite enormous pressure.

During the American Civil War the building was used by Union troops occupying Little Rock. After the war ended, in January, 1868 the Old State House was the site of a constitutional convention to determine whether Arkansas would accept the 14th Amendment, permit suffrage for black males over 21, and create public schools for both black and white children. After contentious debate these new proposals were memorialized in a new constitution that emerged that February, and was ratified in March. Also during Reconstruction the building was an object of contention in the so-called Brooks–Baxter War and the building was fortified during that struggle. The "Lady Baxter" cannon still remains on the grounds.

The building was used as the official state capitol until the new capitol building was constructed in 1912. For a time the building was used as a medical school.

The Old State House was renamed as the Arkansas War Memorial and was used as an office building for federal and state agencies as well as a meeting place for patriotic organizations.

In 1947 the General Assembly approved acts designating the Old State House as a museum. The museum front entrance was the site of President Bill Clinton's presidential campaign announcement[3] and the site of his election night celebrations in both of his campaigns for the presidency.[4] The building underwent major renovation in 1996.

It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.[2][5]

The building continues to serve as a museum with exhibits related to Arkansas history and culture. Permanent collections include Civil War battle flags, the inaugural gowns of the First Ladies of Arkansas, Arkansas art pottery, and African-American quilts. Special exhibits are staged periodically as well.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "Old State House, Little Rock". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-26. 
  3. ^ "Old State House Museum". Retrieved 30 December 2016. 
  4. ^ "Old State House Museum - Arkansas Old State House - Arkansas State House Museum". Retrieved 30 December 2016. 
  5. ^ Cynthia DeHaven Pitcock (July 29, 1997). "National Historic Landmark Nomination: Old State House" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-06-22  and Accompanying 42 photos, exterior and interior, from 1996-1997 (7.95 MB)

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