The scrappy border town of Fort Smith grew up around the area’s first frontier fort, established in 1817 to promote peace between warring Indian tribes of the Osage and Cherokee. Remains of the first fort lie within the Fort Smith National Historic Site perched on a bluff overlooking the Arkansas River. At this site, you can stop and learn about the history of the Trail of Tears and find out about the Civil War in Arkansas.
Visitors can take a step back in time on the very spot overlooking the Arkansas River where the first military outpost was built in 1817. On the grounds nearby is a replica of the famed Fort Smith gallows where 80 men were ordered hanged by Hanging Judge Parker. The fully restored courtroom of Judge Parker and early frontier jail known as “Hell on the Border” are housed in the renovated barracks building, which also houses the Site’s Visitor Center. Visitors can enjoy an interpretation of Native American history in the area and displays highlighting the U.S. Marshals and deputies who rode for Parker to protect the West.
Make your first stop a tour of Miss Laura’s Visitor Center, an old restored brothel listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Then enjoy the five Fort Smith museums, including the Fort Smith Museum of History, the Fort Smith Trolley Museum, the Clayton House, the Darby House and the Fort Smith Art Center. Ride an authentic electric trolley, in one of the same cars that transported folks around town at the turn of the century. Take a nostalgic journey on a a trolley bus, or discover the beautiful restored homes and buildings lining the streets of the 22-block Belle Grove Historic District, which reflects an architectural span of 130 years.
Have you ever wondered what it was like to see railroads in the 19th century? Now you can experience it first-hand on a vintage train excursion on Fort Smith’s A & M Scenic Railway, which provides a breathtaking panoramic view of the Boston Mountains.
The west end of Garrison Avenue, our main street, is a shopper’s paradise with the discovery of one-of-a-kind antiques and unique crafts. New in 2006 is a family-friendly “retro” amusement park, “West End Park.” This art deco attraction features a vintage carousel and Ferris wheel, along with meals in a genuine antique rail car or concessions from a classic double-decker bus.