Road Construction I-540
Traveling West on I-40? To avoid construction delays, do not take Exit 7 (I-540 S). Stay on I-40 west and take Exit 1 Dora. Stay on Hwy 64D for 6 miles and follow signs to Fort Smith. After crossing over the river, turn right on 4th ST & right on Garland. More »
Overview of Historically Interpreted Sites at Fort Smith
First Fort (1817-1824) - more...
The first Fort Smith was established at the confluence of the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers in 1817 at a place named Belle Point. It was the highest navigable point on the Arkansas River at the time the site was chosen by the U.S. Army. The army abandoned the fort in 1824 and while used intermittently by transient troops, it was never maintained. Its exact location remained unknown until 1963, when archeologists uncovered the foundations visitors can see today.
Second Fort (1838-1871) - more...
In 1838 construction of a second fort was begun, this one built at a higher elevation and away from the river. Major buildings included two officer's quarters, a barracks, commissary, and quartermaster storehouse; all enclosed by a stone wall. Today visitors can see the Commissary Storehouse (the oldest building still standing in Fort Smith) and the former military barracks which was converted into the federal courthouse in 1872.
Federal Court (1872-1896) - more...
When the military barracks was used as a courthouse, the basement was fashioned into a jail. The conditions in the first jail that the facility housed was nicknamed "Hell on the Border". In 1888 a new jail wing was constructed to remedy the deplorable conditions suffered by prisoners. The federal courthouse, which originally was a 1 1/2 story structure with full porches, was changed to reflect its current appearance in 1890.
Did You Know?
A woman was responsible for the building of a modern federal jail at Fort Smith, AR, in 1888. Anna Dawes, daughter of Sen. Dawes of MA, visited the "Hell on the Border" jail in 1885 and wrote an article describing its conditions. When read in Congress, money was quickly approved for a new jail.