Conway County Courthouse
The Conway County Courthouse in Morrilton (Conway County) was designed in 1929 by Frank W. Gibb in a fusion of Greek, Roman, and Italian Renaissance architectural styles, exhibiting the diminishing popularity of the Classical Revival style during the early twentieth century. The Conway County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 13, 1989.
Before the Morrilton site was chosen for the county seat, court proceedings had been held in four previous locations. In 1825, when Conway County was created, the town of Cadron was selected as the first established seat of county government. In 1829, the county seat was moved from Cadron to Harrisburg (then the house of Stephen Harris in Welbourne Township). An election ordered by the Arkansas General Assembly in 1829 resulted in a new courthouse and jail being built in Harrisburg. In 1831, Dr. Nimrod Menifee donated land and erected a courthouse in the town of Lewisburg (Conway County). The courthouse remained at Lewisburg until 1850, when a new courthouse was constructed in the town of Springfield (Conway County). Three courthouses were built in Springfield between 1858 and 1869, with the original structure being destroyed by a tornado and the second building destroyed by a fire in 1864 during the Civil War. In June 1873, the county seat was moved back to Lewisburg, with the town of Lewisburg promising to erect a courthouse of a similar high quality as the former one at Springfield. In 1883, the county seat was again taken from Lewisburg and moved to Morrilton.
The present-day Conway County Courthouse has been located at the corner of Moose and Church streets in Morrilton since the first structure was built in 1883. The original courthouse in Morrilton consisted of a two-story brick structure with a hipped and decked roof. On January 2, 1927, the structure burned, and a replacement courthouse was built on the same site in 1929.
Gibb was hired to design the new courthouse at Morrilton at an agreed amount of $1,800. John P. Jones, a Hot Springs (Garland County) contractor, submitted the winning bid for the construction of the new building at a cost of $97,000. Sam Davies, who played a key role in developing Petit Jean Mountain into Arkansas’s first state park, was employed as the supervisor of construction, representing the county’s interest in the project. The courthouse was financed by taxes generated after an amendment was adopted to the state constitution in 1928 granting counties the freedom to vote on special taxes to build courthouses and jails.
The two-story building’s features include heavy, three-dimensional details and half-round Doric columns. The design is characteristic of Gibb’s influence in architecture around Arkansas and the nation—particularly in the design of public buildings.
Since 1989, the Conway County Courthouse has received grants totaling $528,092 from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program for the restoration and rehabilitation of the building. Some of the projects have included roof and window repairs, door replacement, and the restoration of the entry porch. In 2002, an elevator was installed.
Monuments stand on the front lawn of the current courthouse building to commemorate the service of men and women from Conway County who gave their lives fighting in foreign wars.
For additional information:
Conway County, Arkansas: Our Home, Our Land, Our People. Little Rock: Historical Publications of Arkansas, 1992.
“Conway County Courthouse.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/CN0025.nr.pdf (accessed October 19, 2021).
The Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Western Arkansas. Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1978.
Pearl Lentz Sayles
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
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