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Entry, nearly unaltered interior highlight Hempstead County Courthouse

Entry, nearly unaltered interior highlight Hempstead County Courthouse

December 7th, 2018 by Gazette Staff in Texarkana News

Hempstead County Courthouse was built in 1939 in Hope, Ark.

Photo by Hunt Mercier /Texarkana Gazette.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the third 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 Hempstead County Courthouse in Hope, Ark., was built in 1939, only a year after the city of Hope beat out Washington, Ark., in a vote for county seat.

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Hope had been campaigning for the title for six decades. Prior to 1939, the courthouse was located in Washington, Ark., a town known to many as historic "Old Washington."

Hempstead County

Hempstead County

The courthouse is located at the northwest corner of Fifth and Washington streets in Hope. The five-story masonry structure was designed by the Little Rock firm of McAninch and Anderson, and built in 1939 with funding from the Public Works Administration, a Depression-era federal jobs program.

It is an example of art deco architecture with an entry framed by a series of molded concrete panels, separated by inverted chevrons.

The panels depict a variety of industries and professions, including construction, mining, medicine, defense, electricity, farming and brick making. Chevron paneling is repeated in the cornice. The interior of the building is virtually unaltered, except for two courtrooms on the upper floors, which required complete renovation following a lightning-induced fire in 1979. The 1939 building has had a large jail added, but this was done in a sympathetic manner to the original's design.

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

Fire has threatened the Hempstead County Courthouse twice.

On Dec. 12, 1947, the boiler caught fire. A sheriff's deputy turned off the gas and contained the fire before structural damage occurred. On July 10, 1979, lightning struck the courthouse, starting a fire that gutted the third-floor courtroom. The fire followed the completion of a $30,000 renovation to divide the large third-floor courtroom. Court resumed in the building on April 22, 1980, following a $265,000 reconstruction project.

The fate of this courthouse is unknown, however, as a move is planned in the near future.

The county plans to move all courthouse business to the Farmer's Bank and Trust Building at 200 East Third St., Hope.

Like many courthouses built during the 1930s by the WPA, signs of age are surfacing.

The existing courthouse has asbestos and the roof leaks. It also is not in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards for bathrooms. When the courthouse was built in 1939, the standards didn't exist.

(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. You can 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.)

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