Blog

The White County Courthouse, from County Lines Magazine

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Among the many programs and services of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program is the County Courthouse Restoration Grant Program. Created in 1989, this grant program has helped to extend the lives of courthouses that hold vital links to community pride and local history. These grants are funded through the Real Estate Transfer Tax, administered by the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council. Since the beginning of the program, the AHPP has awarded more than $18.6 million to 69 historic courthouses and courthouse annexes around the state for use in rehabilitating, preserving and protecting these important historic resources. Since 1991, White County has received 10 grants totaling $293,204 for the White County Courthouse.

(The featured article below ran in the Winter 2015 issue of the quarterly publication of the Association of Arkansas Counties – County Lines. Companion articles about historic courthouses will be a regular feature in future issues. Read more about the history of White County and this remarkable building.)

The stately White County Courthouse in Searcy stands today as one of the finest examples of a Classical Revival-style public building in Arkansas. The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and White County have worked together for nearly 25 years to preserve the building and make it accessible to all of the county’s constituents. Since 1991, White County has received $293,204 through the AHPP’s County Courthouse Restoration Grant program for restoration work on the landmark building, in addition to another grant to prepare the old Searcy Post Office to serve as a courthouse annex (see sidebar).

When Arkansas’s territorial General Assembly created White County on October 23, 1835, it decreed that “until the seat of justice shall be located, the temporary seat shall be and the courts shall be held at the home of David Crise near the White Sulphur Springs,” now the site of Oak Grove Cemetery. A five-man commission was established to select a permanent county seat, and in 1839 Crawford Walker donated 10 acres of land to them, which was sold to finance a one-story log building just southwest of the current courthouse. White County’s first permanent courthouse, with its furnishings, cost only $138.50. Interestingly, the original donation became embroiled in a kerfuffle involving land grants to veterans of the War of 1812 that eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, making White County’s courthouse the only one in Arkansas whose location was adjudicated by the nation’s highest court.

By 1850, the county needed a larger courthouse and a two-story, wood-frame building featuring a pair of single-story adjacent wings was built for $1,000 on the site of the present courthouse. As White County continued to grow during that decade, government operations soon outgrew the 1850 structure and plans were made for a newer, larger courthouse to be constructed in 1861. The Civil War, however, curtailed those plans and it was not until 1869 that new construction was to commence. In the intervening years, unfortunately, the 1850 building had been sold, moved, and reopened as the Burrow Hotel. White County’s leaders would have to lease space from the local Masonic Lodge at $450 per year until a new building could be erected.

H.L. Baldwin of Memphis, Tennessee, was retained as architect to design what became a two-story masonry building faced with cut stone on the first floor and brick on the second, topped by a clock tower with a bell dated 1855. While the county accepted a low bid of $25,000 from Searcy builder Wyatt Sanford to construct the building, it proved far more expensive by the time it opened in 1871. Still, the building sufficed for 40 years, with county offices on the first floor and courtrooms on the second.

By 1912, White County had again outgrown its courthouse and employed architect Frank W. Gibb – whose designs are reflected in a number of historic Arkansas courthouses – to remodel the building and add space. Gibb stayed true to the design of the 1871 building, continuing the motif of cut stone on the first floor and brick on the second story. He added wings to the north and south elevations of the building, flattened the original’s hipped roof, and removed gables from the building. The White County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 3, 1977.

Today, the White County Courthouse remains a handsome building, with its soaring columns and Corinthian capitals, marble wainscoting and ornate hexagonal-tile floors. Its grounds are enhanced by memorials to White County soldiers who have served from the Civil War to present day and an Arkansas Champion deodar cedar tree planted by County Judge Herbert Moody in 1939. In addition to county business, the courthouse grounds are home to a farmer’s market during the growing season. The White County Courthouse remains an integral part of its community, and the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program will continue to work with county officials to see that it stays that way.

County Courthouse Restoration Grants in White County

FY1991 Waterproofing Basement $10,000
FY1992 Waterproofing Basement and Parapet Walls $21,075
FY1993 Repaint Exterior $7,500
FY1995 Restore Interior Walls and Ceilings $3,500
FY1997 Install Chairlift $20,250
FY1999 North/South Porch Roofs; Paint Clock Tower $35,679
FY2009 Exterior Painting $42,000
FY2012 Roof Restoration $80,000
FY2013 Finish Roof Restoration $48,200
FY2015 Repair Chairlift $25,000

The AHPP also awarded White County a $33,100 County Courthouse Restoration Grant in FY2002 to make the restrooms at the 1914 Searcy Post Office at Gum and Arch streets accessible to handicapped citizens and to install storm windows at the building, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 20, 1992. The building now serves as a courthouse annex: the Wilbur D. Mills Courts Building, housing the county’s circuit, chancery and probate court offices.



Recent Posts


Tags

Forrest City Arkansas Arkansas Historic Preservation Nevada County Arkansas Arkansas Design Network Civil Works Administration International-Style Architecture Freedom Park Sandwiching in History 13th Amendment Booneville Historical Preservation Society Prairie County Arkansas Roe Arkansas Main Street Arkansas:Real Estate Transfer Tax Huntsville Commercial Historic District Tudor Revival Architecture Conway County Library Cemetery Preservation Library Camden to Washington Road downtown revitalization Dionicio Rodriguez Downtown Revitalization Grants Clarendon Arkansas U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Arkansas Preservation Awards Madison County Arkansas Wingmead North Little Rock Arkansas Free Lesson Plan Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council Historic Preservation Alliance Destination Downtown Conference slipcover removal grants Arkansas Tuberculosis Sanatorium Museum Camden Public Library Mississippi Main Street Association Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas Rustic Architecture Pope County Courthouse Parker-Hickman Farm Historic District Fayetteville Arkansas cemetery preservation Kiblah School Mosaic Templars Cultural Center Doddridge Arkansas Edgar Monsanto Queeny Arkansas religious history Ozark Farming Polk County Arkansas Arkansas Railroad History Houston Arkansas Poinsett County Arkansas Flood Control Free Courthouse Poster Walks Through History Leake-Ingham Building Tolbert Gill Morrilton Arkansas Naturalistic Architecture National Historic Landmark Main Street Ozark Houston Methodist Episcopal Church South free historic preservation workshop Arkansas Humanities Council Arkansas History Lesson Plans Gothic Revival architecture Henry Koen Office Building Little Rock Fire Station No. 2 Sunken Lands Arkansas Register of Historic Places Russellville Arkansas Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission Bogg Springs Arkansas Main Street Searcy Real Estate Transfer Tax Historic Preservation Restoration Grants Turner Restoration cemetery preservsation News Release Cumberland Presbyterian Church Mississippi County Courthouse Osceola Perry County Arkansas Helena Arkansas Monsanto Chemical Corporation Rosston Arkansas African American education Evelyn Gill Walker House Mid-Century Modern Architecture Pike County Courthouse National Register of Historic Monroe County Arkansas Huntsville Arkansas Arkansas African American Civil War History steel window restoration workshop American Legion Stearns/Gehring Chapel Cemetery Arkansas State University Heritage Sites Old U.S. Post Office and Customs House Arkansas Business History Pike County Arkansas Trail of Tears in Arkansas New Century Club of Camden Centennial Baptist Church Main Street Texarkana Art Deco Architecture most endangered historic places historic Arkansas properties Dr. Ruth Hawkins Free Cemetery Preservation Workshops Main Street Siloam Springs Marked Tree Lock and Siphons Historic County Courthouses County courthouse Restoration Grants Rosenwald Schools Montgomery County Courthouse Newton County Arkansas historic resort communities U.S. Forest Service Carlisle Rock Island Railroad Depot Louisiana Main Street program Little Rock Central High School Abolition of Slavery Ouachita County Arkansas free teacher resources Mississippi County Arkansas Let Freedom Ring Estes-Williams Post #61 American Legion Hut Montgomery County Arkansas Monroe County Courthouse Elias Camp Morris Camden Arkansas St. Francis County Historical Society Burdette Plantation Erbie Arkansas Skillern House Pulaski County Courthouse Main Street Dumas "Let Freedom Ring" Travel Grants White County Courthouse National Register of Historic Places Booneville Arkansas Arkansas Historic Preservation Program Marked Tree Arkansas Renaissance Revival Architecture Main Street Arkansas Buffalo National River Craftsman style architecture Burdette Arkansas Civilian Conservation Corps Arkansas History Freedmen's Bureau Duck Hunting Phillips County Arkansas Forrest City Cemetery Paris Arkansas free history tours Delta Cultural Center 13th Amendment Classroom Presentation Bogg Springs Hotel 19th Century Road Construction Folk Victorian Architecture historic architecture Three States Lumber Company Barney Elias House historic telephone booth Main Street Batesville downtown economic development Pope County Arkansas Saline County Arkansas Benton Arkansas Central High School Neighborhood Historic District Miller County

Archive