Monroe County Courthouse
The Monroe County Courthouse is located at 123 Madison Street in downtown Clarendon (Monroe County). The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program recognizes the three-story building as architecturally and historically significant as one of Arkansas’s most prominent courthouses and its sole example of the Italian Renaissance Revival style in Monroe County. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 14, 1976.
The Monroe County Courthouse stands on the same site as the previous four courthouses stood, including one that Union armies dissembled during the Civil War and another that burned down on New Year’s Day in 1895. Charles L. Thompson, a prolific architect from Little Rock (Pulaski County) who is credited for renowned structures across the state, designed the present building in 1910. Monroe County awarded a contract worth $118,000 to W. A. Prather and Company from Memphis, Tennessee, to build the new courthouse. Construction was completed in 1911, and it opened for county business that year.
The most outstanding feature is the clock tower, which reaches seven levels high and includes a belfry, clock faces, and a copper weather vane. Other features of the building include four octagonal towers, one placed on each corner of the rectangular building, that are topped with conical roofs. White stone prominently stands out from the building’s symmetrical brown brick and profiles many features, including arches, Doric columns at the principal entrance, and a belfry. Multiple brick chimneys rise out of the hipped roof, evoking the Colonial era.
The courtroom is the heart of the building. An elegant, domed skylight of stained glass is centered over the room. The room is also lit by multiple hanging brass chandeliers with tassels; others are wall mounted. The walls, pilasters, and layered ceiling are white, with the judge’s bench and other furniture standing out in dark oak. A balcony stands at the rear of the courtroom and includes a brass statue of Lady Justice, a common figure in courthouses across the United States.
As is the case with many courthouses in Arkansas, a war memorial stands on site. The Monroe County War Memorial is dedicated to veterans from the county who served in the military from World War I to the Iraq War. It is a long black stone with “All gave some, some gave all” inscribed on the main panel.
During the Flood of 1927, when flooding on the Mississippi River and smaller rivers such as the White River caused devastating damage in Arkansas, the citizens of Clarendon took shelter in the courthouse. People crowded the upper floors while flood waters took over the lower level until rescue teams floated into the building’s hallways. While the city recovered, the townspeople held community activities and church services in the building.
For additional information:
Gill, John Purifoy, and Marjem Jackson Gill. On the Courthouse Square in Arkansas. N.p.: 1980.
“Monroe 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/MO0028.nr.pdf (accessed November 9, 2020).
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
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