Historic Washington State Park, located in Hemsptead County, Arkansas, United States, is a state park dedicated to the preservation of the original site of the capital of the state of Arkansas after it was moved from Little Rock to Hot Springs in 1836. The park features two sites: one for the original “Old Capitol” and another for the “new Old Capital,” which was built on its present location in 1939.
It includes four additional buildings: the Governor’s Mansion, the First Lady’s House, the Carousel Building (a gift shop), and the Visitor Center. A visitor center museum at the new Old Capital building displays artifacts and memorabilia related to the history of the capitol. Other attractions include hiking trails, picnic areas, interpretive panels, and an orientation room that recreate life in the old capital.
The park grounds feature numerous statues and memorials to Arkansans who have made significant contributions to society. Two notable examples are the “Statue of Liberty” fountain and the “Grant Foreman Sculpture Garden”, named for the noted Arkansas sculptor. Statues represent historical figures such as pioneer women, Native Americans, President William Jefferson Clinton, author Mark Twain, conservationists, and others.
Reservations are required before heading out to the campsite. No shows will result in loss of reservation and fees will apply. There are 50 campsites designated for RVs, 25 with sewer, 15 without. Restrooms facilities are provided at the nearby Officer’s Club. Campsites with sewer may use the club’s shower facilities. Those without sewer may utilize any of the park’s six vault toilets.
On February 14, 1988, the park received designation as a National Historical Landmark. In 1957, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Smith, formerly the Russellville College art department, displayed some of Grant Foreman’s most prized sculptures, including his iconic “The Kissing Camels.” These were soon followed by other treasures – more than 200 pieces – that are now on display around the park. Foreman spent nearly 30 years creating these works, many of which can be found throughout the park. Among them are equestrian statues, gazebo monuments, benches, gates, fountains, shelters, and trees.
Many of the park’s structures, both modern and historic, were created by award-winning artist Grant Foreman. Foreman began sculpting “Kissing Camels” in 1967; he died three years later, but left behind a body of work valued at over $1 million, much of it still intact and in public view. After serving as the home of the Arkansas Highway Department for almost 40 years, the structure housing the Civilian Conservation Corps camp where workers received their initial training is now known as Camp Murphy Hall.
Built in 1938, this is the only facility within the park that has retained its original name. Originally called the Eastern Redoubt, its construction provided employment during the Great Depression. Its proximity to the highway allowed travelers to easily pass through the area to visit the park or take advantage of camping facilities. Today, the hall serves as the park’s primary classroom, meeting facility and visitor information center. The adjacent Officer’s Club offers snacks, beverages and Wi-Fi access.
The park also contains the Old State House, which served as the executive mansion for eight governors between 1963 and 1973. This Greek Revival style building features several rooms restored to appear as they did when former Arkansas Governors Dale Bumpers, David Hampton Pryor, Bill Clinton, Jim Guy Tucker, John W. Martin, Charles W. Stewart, Orval Faubus and Henry C. Wallace lived there. The house is open for tours seasonally. The park also preserves the George Laughlin House, which serves as the official residence of the governor of Arkansas when the state is not in session. Located across the road from the park entrance, the house is available for rental when the General Assembly is in recess.
- Winter activities include:
- cross-country skiing
- ice skating