EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the seventh installment in the Courthouse Challenge series. From now until Dec. 20 you can vote on the best looking courthouse in the region online at texarkanagazette.com. This Challenge is not paywall protected. Subscribers and non-subscribers can go to the polling page and vote.
The Pike County Courthouse, completed in March 1932, is the fourth courthouse located on Courthouse Square in downtown Murfreesboro, Ark. The three-story building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on Oct. 16, 1986, in recognition of it being the best example of Art Deco design in the county.
The first courthouse on the site was a log cabin built in 1836, the same year Arkansas became a state. It burned in 1855 and was rebuilt as a two-story wood building in 1856 by contractors Moses and Jackson Brock. It burned down in 1895, taking all the county records with it except for one abstract book. In 1897 the county finished building a third courthouse, this time a brick two-story building that stood until it was torn down to make way for the current courthouse.
The architectural firm of Witt, Siebert, and Hasley, from Texarkana, Ark. was selected to design the building. Contractors May and Sharp were tapped for the construction that was completed in March of 1932 on a budget of $46,500.
Situated in the center of a traffic circle at the intersection of Washington Street and Main Street, the building appears plain at first glance, with buff-colored brick walls topped with limestone. A facade was added to the north side where the main entrance is located. Then, when seen from above, the building reveals itself to be shaped like a thick, blocky plus (+) sign.
The ground floor boasts an oval-shaped lobby surrounded by administrative offices along with two curved staircases of polished dark wood that lead to the second-floor courtroom. A third staircase at the rear of the building leads to the judge's chambers. The tile floor repeats the plus sign shape of the building with dark tile pluses surrounded by tan tiles, tying the inside and outside style of the building together in a cohesive whole.
The wood-paneled courtroom has Tudor-style, dark wainscot walls. The nickel-plated chandeliers in the room, complete with smoked glass, are the original lighting fixtures. They depict a phoenix, which any Harry Potter fan knows is a mythological bird that dies in a fire and is reborn over and over, just like the courthouse itself. On one side of the judge's bench is a door marked "Prosecuting Attorney's Room" and on the other side is a twin door marked "Defendant's Attorney's Room."
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The Texarkana Gazette and texarkanagazette.com will present one courthouse a day (14 in all) until Dec. 18. At our website you can vote on the best looking courthouse. There you will find a direct link in one of the main display windows, or you can click on any of the related courthouse stories for links to the Challenge. You will also find links to the polling site from our Facebook page, and some of you may find links through Breaking News or Updates we send out through email. The system that manages the Challenge will accept one vote per computer or mobile device. The top three vote-getters, in reverse order, will be featured in articles from Dec. 28 to Dec. 30. A week before this announcement three other courthouses will be featured, notable buildings that are either outside this region, or are no longer active county seats. These are not part of the Courthouse Challenge, but we think you will find them interesting. All the courthouses in the Challenge can be seen at the online polling site.)