Washington Arkansas is one those old and revered communities in Arkansas. This site was the crossroads for the Indian tribes going from Mississippi to Oklahoma. History buffs know that Sam Houston planned the Texas Revolution of 1835 in the famous Washington Arkansas tavern.
Reading a history book is not the way to live history. If a visitor wants to learn history from a front row seat, then Old Washington Historic State Park is a “must see.”
This restored village tells a wordless story of Arkansas life in the 19th century. Washington Arkansas has 30 structures in the Park. Docents meet the visitor, dressed in period costumes. Their expertise and the historic buildings that are available for tours make this an enjoyable adventure for young and old.
Upon entering the village of Washington, the breathtaking floral gardens greet the visitor. Each month different species are planted to bloom, so there is always something blooming on the grounds. The tulip, daffodils and jonquils are spectacular in the Spring.
Some of the buildings that are open for touring is the slave cabin. This one room cabin displays various primitive cooking, planting, and harvesting tools. The wood burning stove is kept burning in the Winter months, making the cabin cozy and warm.
A print museum is housed in the building that once served as the town’s post office and bank. There is a display of 1800 printing and telegraph equipment located there.
The Hempstead County Courthouse, build in 1836,serves as the visitor’s center. Here you can receive maps and other information about the area. It is a first stop for all tours.
The sidewalks in the town are still plank boards. The unpaved streets have never been paved. The old wagons that take visitors around the city are pulled by horses and travel on the unpaved streets.
A weapons museum is located in the village. The B.W. Edwards Weapon museum is located in a 1925 bank building.
According to the American Automobile Association, the Blacksmith shop, the Block Catts Home, and the Croach House are some of the other older structures that are of interest. Each of these homes were built in the late 1800s. The Blacksmith shop is a replica of the shop that James Black operated when he made the famous Bowie knives. The blacksmith tools are preserved and visitors can feel and touch them.
There are many other private residences in Washington, so not all of the homes are available for touring.
Lunch is available at the famous Tavern Inn. This inn is believed to have been visited by Sam Houston, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett. It’s vintage furnishings and atmosphere makes the visitor feel that they have stepped back in time. The simple fare resembles the food that might have been served to travelers in the village’s heyday.
At Christmas, a special ceremony is held through the town. Strolling musicians, candlelight tours, and even a Christmas Ball, complete with period dress, is the hit of the holiday season in the town.
According to the town’s website, www.historicwashingtonstatepark,com, a farmers market is held on Tuesday and Saturday during the growing season. It is located behind the Town Hall.
The cost of the tour is $8.00, with a special family price of $30. There is a guided coach tour which costs $35.
Lodging is available in the town of Hope, just 8 miles away from Washington. There are many motels, such as Days Inn, Best Western, Holiday Inn, and Economy Inn. Lodging prices start at $89.
In the town of Hope, another piece of history can be viewed. The boyhood home of President Bill Clinton ha.as been furnished to reflect his boyhood years. A photograph exhibit is available. Tour prices are $5, with discounted prices available.
For additional information on this tour, contact Hope- Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce, at 870-777-3640.
References for this article are the historic Washington State park website, the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce, and the American Automobile Association.