Fort Smith was founded in 1817 and incorporated in 1842, so needless to say there’s a lot of history here. There are plenty of places to go and things to see that have to do with the history of our city. Here are some of them. (Check out a larger list of attractions and get links to those that have a website on FortSmith.org.)
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Here you can see what’s left of the original fort from 1817. You can also see another fort that has a two storey military barracks that was turned into a federal courthouse in the 1870s.
Fort Smith Trolley Museum
At the museum, you can take a half mile trolley ride on a restored 1926 electric streetcar. The trip goes between the Fort Smith National Cemetery and Varsity Sports Grill on Garrison Ave. Rides cost $2 for adults and $1 for kids.
The Clayton House is a Victorian Renaissance mansion that was built in the 1850s. It was enlarged after being bought in 1882 by William Henry Harrison Clayton. Today it’s fully restored and contains period pieces from the Clayton family. You can take the Lamplight Ghost Tour, and if you have a group of 25 or more, you can have private Victorian High Tea.
Belle Grove Historic District
There are plenty of lovely restored homes and buildings in this historic district made up of 22 city blocks. The architectural styles cover 150 years and they include Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne, Eastlake Victorian Renaissance, Gothic Revival, Craftsman, Prairie, Federal and Neoclassical architecture. Notable figures whose homes are here include William Henry Clayton; 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) and others.
In this 20-acre cemetery there are more than 80 U.S. marshals and at least 28 outlaws buried. The cemetery is on the National Register of Historic Places. A “Fort Smith Tales of the Crypt” event happens each spring, where costumed actors give guided tours and tell tales of people buried here.
There are several more interesting historic sites and historic things on the website linked above. It’s fun to live in a city so full of history. It’s great for newcomers, too, because with all the attractions, it doesn’t take long to learn what Fort Smith today has evolved from.
Enjoy our history. Learn more about our roots.