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Old Scott County Courthouse

The Old Scott County Courthouse is located on courthouse square in the historic commercial district of Waldron (Scott County). It was built in 1934 and housed the county government until 1996, when the county completed the current courthouse: a plain, contemporary structure that is located on 1st Street in Waldron. The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP) recognizes the 1934 building, a three-level courthouse with a full basement, as architecturally and historically significant due to its Art Deco style and as an example of a New Deal–era project. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 13, 1989.

Since Waldron became the county seat in 1845, seven courthouses have served as the seat of justice, including the current 1996 building. In 1933, a fire destroyed the 1904 courthouse (Scott County’s third courthouse) built by a Mr. Creech and J. L. McCartney. County Judge J. F. Martin found temporary housing for local government offices and endeavored to begin construction on a new courthouse. Voters approved a five-mill tax to fund building costs, but fiscal challenges remained. After the Great Depression brought widespread unemployment and bear stock markets, Scott County, too, faced hardships as the local lumber industry declined. County administrators found aid in New Deal policies when the Works Progress Administration (WPA) appropriated funds for labor costs on the 1934 Scott County Courthouse’s construction.

Upon the courthouse’s completion, the local WPA office would be housed on the third floor. Other New Deal–era agencies operating in the building included the Farm Security Administration (on the third floor) and the Agricultural Adjustment Act (in the basement).

Fort Smith (Sebastian County) architects T. E. Bassham and Carnall Wheeler designed the red-brick building in a heightened Art Deco style, which included a tall granite panel over the entrance bay. Designers kept the interior plain, with concrete walls over a brick dado. The first floor consisted of the offices for the county judge, sheriff, and other county services. The courtroom on the second floor included concrete benches for prisoners awaiting their legal proceedings. A staircase went to the third floor, where Scott County housed its jail. (This replaced a two-story jail built in 1908, which the WPA renovated to serve as a public library in 1938; it was later used by other groups such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Department of Juvenile Services, and the Scott County Historical and Genealogical Society.) Mistletoe, a common feature in the Ouachita National Forest that encompasses Scott County, once grew regularly around the courthouse. However, the landscaping was removed when the county closed the courthouse.

The Old Scott County Courthouse deteriorated as time passed, especially after Scott County moved its county offices to the new facility in 1996. Preservation efforts have restored much of the building since 1989, including a 2013 AHPP grant of $75,000 for rehabilitation of the first level. In 2016, renovations continued on the empty structure.

A concrete memorial dedicated to Scott County veterans killed in combat during World War I and World War II still stands outside the courthouse. The local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter, Post 5026, erected it in 1947. A time capsule is also on site to honor the bicentennial anniversary of the United States. The City of Waldron buried it on July 4, 1976, and it is to be opened on December 7, 2025.

For additional information:
Arkansas Historical Records Survey Project. Inventory of the County Archives of Arkansas: Scott County. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Gill, John Purifoy, and Marjem Jackson Gill. On the Courthouse Square in Arkansas. N.p.: 1980.

“Old Scott County Jail.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/SC0040.nr.pdf, (accessed September 27, 2016).

“Scott County Courthouse.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/SC0016.nr.pdf (accessed September 27, 2016).

Jared Craig
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program

Last Updated 9/27/2016

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