Historic Attractions

Fort Smith's history is fascinating, unique in American history, and important. We tell people sometimes that Fort Smith is a small town, but a big deal. Here is where justice (and occasionally injustice) was meted out to hundreds of the most vile outlaws who sought to escape the law by hiding out in and terrorizing the vast uncharted west known as Indian Territory. Here are the histories of the lawmen who sought to keep the peace among these lawbreakers and among the Five Civilized Tribes that converged here near the Arkansas border. 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 this last leg on the Trail of Tears, Fort Smith is full of jaw-dropping stories. Thousands of people come to Fort Smith each year to experience these stories and the sights of our rough-and-tumble past for themselves. At the same time, the innate beauty of The Natural State and the charms of our well-instilled Southern culture take the edge off our dark past and make visiting Fort Smith today a hospitable, welcoming and affordable getaway.

Fort Smith National Historic Site Grounds

 The following are some of the Fort Smith area's most popular historic attractions. 

Fort Smith National Historic Site

Fort Smith National Historic Site, Ft. Smith, Arkansas

Recognized as the #1 most loved and talked about historic attraction in Arkansas by FlipKey -- a TripAdvisor company -- in their 2016 list of, "Top Historic Spots Worth Travelling For."

Perhaps the most prominent stop in Fort Smith 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 are the restored courtroom of the famed "Hangin' Judge" Isaac C. Parker, and the dingy frontier jail aptly named "Hell on the Border."

The Park's grounds are open 365 days a year and include the paved trails along the Arkansas River and Belle Point, parking lots, picnic tables, and several excellent outdoor exhibits.

The Visitors' Center, gallows, and Commissary building are open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. except for the following:

New Year's Day - closed
Thanksgiving Day - closed
Christmas Day - closed

Fort Smith Museum of History

Children enjoy seeing the antique fire engine at the Fort Smith Museum of History, one of Ft. Smith's popular tourist attractions.

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.

Monday: Closed
Tuesday - Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. from June through August

Admission $5. Children $2. Ages 6 and under, Free.

Fort Smith Trolley Museum/ Trolley Rides

A vintage electric streetcar is one of the tourist attractions in Ft. Smith Arkansas at the Fort Smith Trolley Museum.

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 the Fort Smith Museum of History.

Inside the Trolley Museuma stop on the routeis 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.

Fort Smith Air Museum  

Fort Smith Air Museum features vintage aviation artifacts from Ft. Smith Arkansas aviation history in the Fort Smith Regional Airport.

The Fort Smith Air Museum, a series of permanent exhibits at the Fort Smith Regional Airport, is dedicated to preserving the history of the development of aviation in Western Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma. Visitors can view a wide variety of displays honoring the pioneer and military aviators from the area, and chronicle the history of airline service to Fort Smith. Special exhibits feature the 188th Air National Guard, the Fort Smith Civil Air Patrol and the growth of corporate and general aviation in the Fort Smith area.  Visitors can enjoy a self guided tour at the museum. Free.

Clayton House

The Clayton House, Ft. Smith Arkansas, a popular tourist attraction and example of Victorian architecture in the Belle Grove Historic District.

Originally built in the 1850s, this classic Victorian Italianate 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 pieces as well as an entire collection of period furniture, the home features the original double-door entrance and hand-carved staircase. It exemplifies the beauty and grace of the Victorian era. A guided tour is provided.

Ask about the “October Shadows” Lamplight Paranormal Tour, Clayton Conversations special events, and upcoming children's programs. Groups are welcome to schedule a private Light Afternoon Tea served for your group!

Darby House    

General William O. Darby of Darby's Rangers, born and buried in Fort Smith, Arkansas

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 
Victorian and other styles of 19th and 20th Century American architecture grace the Belle Grove Historic District in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

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

Fort Smith National Cemetery, Ft. Smith Arkansas. Fort Smith volunteers decorate each of the 12,000 graves with wreaths during the holiday season.

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 solders buried.

Oak Cemetery  

Fort Smith Tales of the Crypt is a popular living history event each Spring at historic Oak Cemetery in Ft. Smith, Arkansas.

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. 

Zachary Taylor's Chimney

President Zachary Taylor's chimney in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

During the 1840s, future U.S. President Zachary Taylor was commander of the military garrison at Fort Smith. His private home was once located near what is now Immaculate Conception Church and St. Anne's Academy, at 13th and Garrison. A fire destroyed the home just before the turn-of-the-century, but what is referred to as Zachary Taylor's Chimney is still standing.

2 North B, Fort Smith, Arkansas 72901
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