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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Fort Smith AR is a city on the move

Possum mural, part of
The Unexpected Project

Although Fort Smith is old and loves its history of frontier days, today it is a city brimming with life and progress.

Let me start by saying I love the old and the history. The National Historic Site tells us much about the early days on the frontier. From the destination point of the Trail of Tears to Judge Parker and his infamous courtroom, the area makes visitors pause and study our past. It's not always pretty.

Another mural
Belle Point, at the site of the original fort, is a beautiful spot where two rivers join - the Poteau and the Arkansas. However, I'm sure its natural beauty was lost on the tired, displaced Cherokee at the end of their torturous trip.

Evening view from
the River Walk
Across the river, Oklahoma provided wide open territory and a new home, not only to the Indians, but in many cases, to those escaping the law. For years, US Marshals tracked criminals and brought them back to Judge Parker's court. A visit to the jail and courtroom produces plenty of evidence of the "wanted" people who traversed the area. "Hanging Judge Parker" sentenced 160 men and women to death by hanging. The jail became known as "the most horrible prison" in the country in its time.

Although you can revisit history, today's Fort Smith is filled with art, culture, great food and a beautiful trail along the Arkansas River.

 In July this year, the third annual "The Unexpected: Festival of Murals" will bring in world-renown artists to create public art masterpieces. The diversity of murals delighted me - from black-and-white larger than life human figures to bright abstract pieces, I loved them all. Since I'm an animal lover, I have to mention the possum mural that I had to drive by multiple times! Part of the fun is driving around town and discovering each one.

Clayton House
Take time to enjoy the new river walk area. It's a great place to combine exercise with nature. Sunsets on the river provide a great opportunity for camera enthusiasts. Heat is an issue this time of year, so early morning or evenings are ideal times to explore the trail.

Museums provide diverse histories ranging from the art museum and trolley museum to the fort, the Clayton House and Miss Laura's (now the Visitors Center) which tells differing

Luke poses at the Elvis Presley
Barbershop Museum
sides of the area's history. Fort Chaffee (now Chaffee Crossing) is home to the Elvis Presley Barbershop Museum and the WWII Museum.

After a day discovering the city, thoughts of food take over. Fort Smith has some outstanding restaurants.

Neumeier's Rib Room
I've enjoyed Doe's Eat Place, R Landry's Cajun Restaurant, La Huerta and Joe's Grill and Cantina. On a prior visit, I ate lunch at the Bricktown Brewery and this year a group of us enjoyed Neumeier's Rib Room. I can easily recommend all of them. And I only tried a few of the city's offerings.
Bread pudding at R Landry's

Bricktown Brewery


  1. I go on Sundays with less traffic so I slowly drive by enjoying ALL the wonderful murals. I like the one on 5th street of some kind weasel what with me being a animal lover. Then there is one on wheeler avenue on silos historical painting and I am passionate learning cultures and history. Mary Kaye Smith.

  2. I love them too and I think Sundays is a great idea. I especially love all the animals too. I'm not sure of the street but are the silos the ones with the black and white portraits?