Cleveland County Courthouse

The Cleveland County Courthouse in Rison was designed by Theodore M. Sanders and constructed in 1911. It incorporates the Classical Revival and Modern Renaissance styles of architecture with quoins, Tuscan pilasters, and denticulated cornices.

The original Cleveland County seat was Toledo, but the Toledo courthouse burned down in 1889 and all of the records inside were lost. Although Rison had been accepted as the new county seat on August 17, 1889, it was not until April 11, 1891, that Rison was formally chosen by the Arkansas Supreme Court as the new county seat after two contested elections.

In 1892, a frame courthouse was constructed in Rison for $8,000. It was in use until the completion of the current courthouse in 1911, located on the same site. The 1892 courthouse was not fireproof and was considered unsafe, being in a dilapidated condition that made it an insecure depository for county records.

Built on the corner of Main and Magnolia in Rison, the current courthouse building measures 100′ x 70′ and was constructed for $65,000. The two-story brick building sits atop a limestone water table, and windows are double-hung sash-faced with limestone keystones. An octagonal dome roof overlooks the town, with a clock tower rising twenty feet above it. The clock has four faces and is surrounded by Tuscan pilasters, which also cover the front façade of the building.

The four corners of the central wing are marked with quoins (masonry blocks placed at the junction of two walls),creating an image of permanence and strength. The front portico is supported by Tuscan columns made of limestone.

The interior looks much the same in the twenty-first century as it did when it was built. The floor is made of brightly colored ceramic tiles, while the original pressed tin ceilings are in exceptionally good condition.The Cleveland County Courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 11, 1977.

For additional information:
“Cleveland County Courthouse.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Cleveland County, Arkansas: Our History and Heritage. Rison, AR: Cleveland County Historical and Genealogical Society, 2006.

Danny Groshong
Little Rock, Arkansas


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