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The Pike County Courthouse is located on Courthouse Square in the heart of downtown Murfreesboro (Pike County). It is situated along Highway 27 and is at the crossroads of the city. The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program recognizes the three-story building as architecturally and historically significant as the finest example of an Art Deco structure in Pike County. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 16, 1986.
The current Pike County Courthouse is the fourth to stand on the site. According to a historical marker on the courthouse lawn, the first was a log structure. It was built in 1836, the year of Arkansas’s admittance into statehood, and served county affairs until a fire destroyed it in 1855. Contractors Moses and Jackson Brock built the second courthouse in 1856. It was a two-story, wood-frame structure with a cupola. It burned down in 1895, also burning the county records. The county constructed a two-story brick building in 1897, and it remained standing until it was razed to make room for the present courthouse.
Pike County chose the Art Deco design of Witt, Siebert and Hasley, an architectural firm from Texarkana (Miller County). The architects also designed the county courthouse in De Queen (Sevier County), which is similar to the Pike County structure. The construction contract was agreed to in October 1931 at a budget of $46,500, and contractors May and Sharp oversaw the project to its completion in March 1932.
The building is seemingly plain with a block shape, generic buff brick walls, and limestone placed upon the north façade. For much of the building’s lifespan, cloth awnings were situated above all the windows and doors. However, they have since been removed.
Administrative offices surround an oval-shaped lobby on the first floor. Two curved wooden staircases line the walls and lead to just outside the second-floor courtroom. A third staircase is located at the rear of the building and leads to the judge’s chambers, providing easy access for the county’s judges.
The courtroom is wood paneled with wooden furnishings and dark, Tudor-style wainscot walls. Two doors stand on either side of the judge’s bench, marked “Prosecuting Attorney’s Room” and “Defendant’s Attorney’s Room.” Smoked glass and nickel-plated chandeliers hang above the room and are original to the building. They depict the phoenix, a mythological bird that exists in a perpetual cycle of death and rebirth.
A war memorial stands outside the courthouse and is dedicated to veterans from Pike County who served and died in combat from World War I to the Vietnam War. There is also a metal sculpture of a mining wheel and a pickax. It is dedicated to the rich mining history of Pike County, especially the Murfreesboro mines that have resulted in the unearthing of tens of thousands of diamonds and gems.
For additional information:Gill, John Purifoy, and Marjem Jackson Gill. On the Courthouse Square in Arkansas. N.p.: 1980.
“Pike 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/PI0003.nr.pdf (accessed May 10, 2016).
Jared Craig Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Last Updated 9/27/2016
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