WORDS courtesy Monika Rued, Arkansas State Parks, and Catherine Frederick
IMAGES courtesy Arkansas State Parks
Historic Washington State Park in southwest Arkansas is well known as a historic village filled with preserved 19th-century homes and buildings. An important stop on the Southwest Trail, James Bowie, Sam Houston, and Davy Crockett famously traveled through here. James Black, a local blacksmith, actually forged the legendary Bowie knife! From 1863-1865, it served as the Confederate capital of Arkansas and the 1874 courthouse now serves as the park visitor center. Discover the blacksmith shop, weapons museum, print museum, and other historic locations that make up the largest collection of 19th-century buildings in the state. Besides these structures, visitors can explore a unique collection of living witnesses to the history of Washington: its many historic and champion trees. The staff are also dressed to fit the period and offer numerous reenactments and demonstrations. When hunger strikes, stop by Williams Tavern Restaurant for some home cooking, Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 3pm.
Looking to stay in a unique, historic place? The Jailhouse Bed and Breakfast is a renovated jailhouse with modern amenities. Each of the eight rooms has a private bathroom, WiFi, and satellite TV with continental breakfast served daily. The original jail, a brick, one-story building with four jail cells, was completed in 1873, and housed criminals for offenses such as burglary, forgery, assault, assault with intent to kill, maiming, and seduction. A concrete pillar displays the names of convicts who etched their names into it, and according to the book Ghostly Tales from America’s Jails, 1922 prisoner Isaac Newton Evans haunts the inn to this day. A new two-story jail, completed in 1918 with six jail cells, replaced the old jail and is the one used today as a bed and breakfast.
Historic Washington State Park
103 Franklin Street, Washington, Arkansas