Monday, June 21, 2010

Belle Grove Historic District - Fort Smith, Arkansas

One of the most charming historic districts in the South can actually be found on what was once its western frontier.

Belle Grove Historic District in Fort Smith, Arkansas, coverd 22 city blocks and features an array of stunning historic structures spanning 130 years of Southern history. The numerous architectural styles on display in the district clearly demonstrate the city's historical claim to be the place "Where the Old South meets the Old West."

The John Rogers House, built in 1840 and thought to be the oldest house in Fort Smith, was patterned after the barracks of the old fort itself. Like many other homes in Belle Grove, it survived the violent years of the Civil War in the West and stands today as a landmark of Fort Smith's early history.

Nearby stands the unique Casper Reutzel House. Built using a half-timber and brick nogging design, it was completed in 1850 and was the home of Reutzel, who ran the most successful cotton shipping business on the Arkansas River. Another survivor of the Civil War, the house was loopholed for musketry.

Other structures in the Belle Grove Historic District include the Fort Smith Art Center (built in 1857 and used to quarter troops during the Civil War), the Bonneville House (built in 1870 and purchased in 1878 by the widow of Gen. Benjamin Bonneville, a famous Western explorer), the Clayton House (once the home of the District Attorney during the days of "Hanging Judge" Isaac C. Parker) and the Darby House (the boyhood home of Gen. William O. Darby, the father of the U.S. Army Rangers).

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