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Drew County Courthouse

The Drew County Courthouse, located at 210 South Main Street in Monticello (Drew County), is a three-and-a-half-story Classical Moderne–style building that was constructed in 1932. This is the fourth courthouse building that has been constructed for Drew County.

The first courthouse in Monticello was built in 1851 and cost less than $5,300. The second building was erected in 1856–57 and was of frame construction, just as the first had been. In 1870–71, the third courthouse (brick this time) was built on the square from local materials, costing $48,620. This courthouse had a 110-foot tower that displayed a four-dial clock. With the completion of the current courthouse, the third courthouse was torn down, and the bell and clock from the tower were donated to what is now the University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM).

In the April 1931 term of the Drew County Quorum Court, County Judge W. E. Spencer proposed an election on building a new courthouse and a tax to pay for it. Drew County voters approved it on May 16, 1931. Courthouse commissioners hired H. Ray Burks of Little Rock (Pulaski County) as architect and Hewitt and Russell of Little Rock to build it. In addition to this building, Burks designed three other Arkansas courthouses: the Lonoke County Courthouse (1928), the Pope County Courthouse (1932), and the Arkansas County Courthouse—Southern District (1931). All of these buildings are imposing structures, with each having their own distinct design. Pfeifer Plumbing Co. and Arkansas Electric Co. of Little Rock installed the utilities for the Drew County Courthouse. Since the 1872 courthouse was still standing on the town square, a site two blocks away was selected for the new building. It was dedicated on July 4, 1932.

The architectural style of this L-shaped building is Classical Moderne. From the front, the view is of a symmetrical, commanding building of cut limestone with six evenly spaced ionic columns, three of which frame either side of the entrance door, which is located in the center of the eastern elevation. A rectangular pediment rests above the ionic pillars and reads, “Drew County Court House.” The year of construction is divided into two parts, displayed on either side of the building name in the pediment, with “19” on the left and “32” on the right.

The decorative accents of the building are a blend of Art Deco and Classical styles, both inside and out. The interior displays the iron Art Moderne balustrades that are original to the building, along with stone wainscoting on the walls and stone floors of gray marble. Notably, the interior design lacks a bar to separate court spectators from the floor of the proceedings; by 1980, all circuit courtrooms in Arkansas had such a bar, except for the Drew County Courthouse.

The current Drew County Courthouse was built south of the previous one on Main Street on approximately two and a half acres. In front of the building is a circular drive. A veterans’ memorial has been placed in the center of the lawn within this drive. On Veterans’ Day in 1988, it was dedicated to all who have served or will serve in the military, and it consists of four large granite markers placed in a square, allowing space to walk between them; each piece of granite displays the word “SACRIFICE,” with a flagpole in the center of the monument.

This building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 17, 1997. The Drew County Courthouse was nominated for its architectural significance as the best example of a Classical Moderne–style building in the area. From 2000 to 2013, over $500,000 in grant funding has been applied to preservation efforts including roof repair, masonry repair, stone restoration, and interior restoration.

For additional information:
Christ, Mark K. “Surviving the Times.” County Lines, Summer 2017, 36–38.

DeArmond, Rebecca. Old Times Not Forgotten: A History of Drew County. Little Rock: Rose Publishing Company, 1980.

“Drew 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/DR0162.nr.pdf (accessed May 20, 2015).

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

Lampkin, Sheilla. “The History of the Bronze Bell at UAM’s Weevil Pond.” Advance Montecellonian, September 26, 2013. Online at http://mymonticellonews.net/living/museum/article_3951e0ac-26b9-11e3-8024-0019bb2963f4.html (accessed October 24, 2013).

“Need Long Felt.” Advance Monticellonian, July 4, 1932, p. 1.

Nikki Senn
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program

Last Updated 11/8/2017

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