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Arkansas County Courthouse, Southern District

The Arkansas County Courthouse for the Southern District in DeWitt (Arkansas County) was designed by Little Rock (Pulaski County) architect H. Ray Burks and constructed by E. V. Bird Construction Company. Built in 1931, this three-story building is a prime example of the Art Deco style used in many Arkansas buildings constructed during this time period.

Located at 101 Court Square, the current Arkansas County Courthouse is the fourth courthouse built in DeWitt. First, three log courthouse buildings were built in 1855 by Colonel Charles W. Belknap, approximately one block from the current site. One building was for a courtroom, another for the clerk’s and sheriff’s offices, and the third for a jury room. This set of buildings was replaced with a two-story red brick building in 1862, built on the current site, and replaced again with a larger courthouse in 1893. (Not long after the 1862 courthouse was built, it was set on fire, and fourteen-year-old Martin Billinsley is credited for extinguishing the blaze.) This third courthouse almost immediately developed cracks in the foundation and was disliked by the officials and citizens of the area. The whole building was condemned before the current courthouse was built.

Built in the Art Deco style, the courthouse has experienced exterior changes only in the replacement of the front doors with aluminum pair doors, as well as the construction of two single-story additions (built in 1971) at the rear of the building. Inside the building, the only major change has been the resurfacing of the walls with modern wood paneling. The entire building still has the original ceramic tile floor. All of the original judges’ benches and witness stands, as well as most of the original light fixtures, remain. The courtroom ceiling is also original. The courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 20, 1992.

For additional information:
“Arkansas County Courthouse—Southern District.” 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/ar0039.nr.pdf (accessed May 18, 2015).

Danny Groshong
Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated 9/27/2016

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