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Lafayette County Courthouse only one in Arkansas to share public square with a cemetery

Lafayette County Courthouse only one in Arkansas to share public square with a cemetery

Vote in the Courthouse Challenge

December 12th, 2018 by Michael V. Wilson/Special to the Gazette in Texarkana News

The Lafayette County Courthouse built between 1940 to 1942.

Photo by Hunt Mercier /Texarkana Gazette.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the eighth 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 Lafayette County Courthouse, situated in Lewisville, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for Arkansas as the finest example of Art Deco/WPA Moderne in the county.

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Completed in1942, it was designed by the architectural firm of Clippard & Vaught for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). It incorporates not only the Art Deco style of chevrons, lozenges and sunbursts, but also the Moderne government style of architecture with massive, sturdy walls and limited windows. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, art professor Franklin Allen Latimer once observed that it "almost assumes the appearance of a cell block."

Lewis and Eugenia Steel, who once owned the land the courthouse now occupies, sold it to the Southwestern Improvement Company, the company that developed much of Lewisville. The WPA provided 40 percent of the costs for the new courthouse to replace an older courthouse which dated back to 1890. Of note, the Steel family cemetery, itself dating back to 1860, is still located on the site. This makes it the only courthouse in Arkansas to share a public square with a cemetery.

According to the Lafayette County Historical Society, the first courthouse in the county was a log courthouse built in 1827 on "Chickininny Prairie" near Red River and the old Bodcaw Lumber Company. In 1842 it was replaced with a brick courthouse. When the railroad moved its line, the city, which came to be referred to as "old" Lewisville, moved with it and in 1890 a third courthouse was built in the "new" Lewisville. It was designed by the architectural firm of Frank W. Gibb and built by contractor J. W. Detwiler.

The current courthouse, at 1 Courthouse Square in Lewisville, is a buff-colored brick building with minimal ornamentation, rectangular in its overall design with a stepped design and single- and two-story projections. Characteristic features include aluminum and stainless steel around the door and window trims, horizontal bands of windows, which create a distinctive streamlined look, and horizontal reliefs around the base of the building, over the second story windows, and the flat crenelation at the roof.

The raised relief around the inset step entrances on each side is the only break in the streamlined industrial design, which looked to the modern machine age for its inspiration.


(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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