Stone County Courthouse
The Stone County Courthouse in the Ozark Mountain city of Mountain View (Stone County) is located in a picturesque commercial district marked with storefronts and local institutions. Native sandstone from the mountains makes up the courthouse’s walls and echoes the look of the congregation of buildings on the courthouse square, forming a cohesive identity. The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program recognizes the 1922 building as historically and architecturally significant, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 17, 1985.
The Adamesque courthouse was constructed in 1922 to replace its 1888 predecessor, presumably because county operations outgrew the old wood-frame building. Clyde A. Ferrell designed the new courthouse, and Bill Laroe, the head mason, constructed it; Laroe also constructed other features of the courthouse square. Stone pillars support the front porch’s roof features. The two-story building also includes two matching chimneys placed symmetrically to each side of the courthouse entrance. Through the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program’s County Courthouse Restoration Grant Program, Stone County received over $229,000 to make improvements to the courthouse. These modifications, dating back to 1995, included making the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, replacing fifty-two windows, and repairing the stone walls.
A granite war monument stands in front of the building and honors “Our Stone County Sons” who died in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. A cast-aluminum eagle, hunched over and with outstretched wings, stands atop the marker as if it were ready to leap into flight. George Stevens designed the sculpture and installed it in 1949. Stone County dedicated the monument on August 20, 1949.
Unlike most courthouses around Arkansas, the Stone County Courthouse houses some of the area’s social activities. For much of the building’s history, musical performers have played on the lawn on Saturday nights or in the courtroom during bad weather. The Arkansas Folk Festival, an annual event that takes place on the third weekend of April, has attracted thousands of people to Mountain View every year since 1963. The Mountain View Chamber of Commerce, located across the street in a building shared with the Stone County Office of Veterans’ Affairs, sponsors the festival. Some activities were shifted to the Ozark Folk Center State Park when it opened in 1973, but the Stone County Courthouse still hosts segments of the event.
A strange and sensational moment in Arkansas’s history took place at the courthouse. The supposed murder of Connie Franklin, a drifter who arrived in Stone County to find work in January 1929, attracted newspaper reporters across the United States and put Arkansas in the headlines. A grand jury indicted Franklin’s five accused killers, and the prosecutor took them to trial. An eyewitness took the stand, and reporters packed the courthouse. The trial’s narrative included a murder, a rape, a flogging, an escape from the Arkansas State Hospital, and the fact that the prosecutor and defense attorney were brothers. Locals stood at the courthouse square, then just a few storefronts and mud, and waited for news about the trial. Then, on December 7, 1929, a cotton dealer found Connie Franklin alive and well on a farm in Arkansas County. Franklin traveled to Mountain View to report on his good health. The court confirmed his identity as Connie Franklin, although the eyewitness could not. Meanwhile, newspapers continued writing barbed headlines that mocked Arkansans for the confusion.
For additional information:
Blevins, Brooks. Ghost of the Ozarks: Murder and Memory in the Upland South. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012.
Brown, Don. “History and Architecture of Stone County.” Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/News-and-Events/publications (accessed August 27, 2020).
Gill, John Purifoy, and Marjem Jackson Gill. On the Courthouse Square in Arkansas. N.p.: 1980.
“Stone 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/ST0259.nr.pdf (accessed August 27, 2020).
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
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