1905 Washington County Courthouse
4 South College

Fayetteville AR 72701


The historic Washington County Court House is the fifth county court house. Prior to construction of the 1905 court house, Washington County's other court houses were all on the Fayetteville square on or near the site of the old Post Office. Captain Samuel Marrs constructed the first court house in 1829 for a cost of $49.75. It was between what is now Block Street and the Bank of Fayetteville and consisted of a 20 x 20 log structure. The fate of the original structure is unknown. In 1837 Washington County constructed a brick court house for $6,398.75 Little is known about its design or builders. It was apparently destroyed by fire. George Baker built the county's third court house in 1854 for $6,900. It burned in 1862 during the Civil War. Fortunately, county officials had removed the county's records to Fincher's Cave near Black Oak prior to hostilities. As a result, Washington County is only one of a handful of Arkansas counties that did not lose its early nineteenth-century records during the Civil War. Alexander Hendry built Washington County's fourth court house in 1868 for $22,000. This brick structure was demolished in 1905.

County Judge Millard Berry, along with many other key players, took part in the planning and building of the Historic Washington County Court House. In 1902 Judge Berry and others convinced the people that the 1868 court house was too small for the growing County, "unfitted for the business of the County, unsafe and not worthy of repair". They proposed to sell the public square property and to levy one mil for construction of a new court house, cost not to exceed $75,000. The City of Fayetteville put $5,000 into the fund in exchange for use of space for City officials. The County transferred title to the Square property to the City, where in 1911 a building was built on the Square to become known as the Old Post Office in recent years.

Property was purchased just a block from the Square for about $5,000. In early 1904 Judge Berry appointed J H McIlroy commissioner of public buildings whose job was to submit a plan for construction of the new court house. Little Rock architect Charles L Thompson was chosen to draw up plans and specifications. Cost was estimated at $100,000 and bids were requested. G W Donaghey of Conway offered the winning bid at $98,500, and was given the contract.

Various stages of remodeling, additions and upgrades were made to the 1905 structure in the 1970's and 80's. Finally in 1989 the County was able to purchase a modern office building now in use as County court house and offices and the move into that building began in 1991. Much discussion was held between the late 1990's and early 2000's about closing or selling the 1905 building. Different County and public groups had offices in the building during this time. In 1997 County Judge Charles Johnson established the Washington County Archives to be located in the old court house as County records had outgrown the space available in the "new" court house.

in 2003 an advisory board was established to make recommendations on the restoration and rehabilitation of the historic structure. The exterior was repaired and restored to preserve the building and as of 2009 work is underway to restore the interior, due to reopen in 2010.

Bibliography:
The Historic Washington County Court House by Tony Wappel, Flashback Spring 2005



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