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Good For Kids
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The main building's design reflects its multiple uses and some additions. The area is open and easy to walk around.
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Closest available address
301 Parker Avenue, Fort Smith, AR 72901
The museum is open 9-5. Grounds are open 24/7.
Best time to visit
Fort Smith National Historic Site preserves a fort and courthouse complex that played an important role on the US western frontier and in the oversight of Indian Territory in present day Oklahoma.
There were actually two Fort Smiths. The first was built in 1817 beside the Arkansas River. It was constructed to help keep the peace between local Indians and other Indians who were moving into the area after being forced from their homes back east. After the first fort was abandoned, the army established a second fort in 1838 due to local demands for more security. By the 1870s the frontier had moved to the west and the fort was converted into a courthouse and jail for the nearby Indian Territory. It continued in this role till the 1890s.
Those who enjoy history will really appreciate a visit to Fort Smith. Most of the fort’s buildings are gone, but the courtroom and jail are well-preserved and presented. The museum upstairs is excellent. It includes displays, photos and artifacts of US Marshals, famous outlaws, and general life on the frontier. There are also living history audio clips. Not to be missed is a movie that tells the story of heroic US marshals that risked their lives to arrest outlaws in Indian Territory. Outside the museum there is a rebuilt gallows and a commissary. Closer to the river are the remains of the first fort and a short serene walk that has information on the Trail of Tears. There are other historical buildings in the city of Fort Smith as well. Although there was not enough time to visit it, a bordello museum called Miss Laura’s Social Club looked interesting. A US Marshal museum is planned here for the future.
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