The First Purpose Built Courthouse in Arkansas


This 3-D rendering suggests what the Davidsonville Courthouse could have looked like, based off the remnants found during archeological excavations on the town site.


The brick courthouse at Davidsonville was in use by 1822. It stood in the center of the public square at the center of town. This two-story brick building may have been built in the “coffee grinder” style, used for many early nineteenth century courthouses in Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky (Goeldner 1970). This was a square structure which sometimes had a cupola with a railing.

In addition to being the seat of justice, the courthouse could have been used for town meetings, voting, weddings, school instruction, and church services, among others. Proclamations and notices of land sales would have been read from the courthouse steps. There probably was a fence around the public square to keep livestock out. The public square was also place where people gathered when court was in session.


No court or county records are known to exist to describe the 1822 courthouse. Early county historians cite C. L. Freeman in a 1899 writing, when he states:

The courthouse stood on Public Square and was a two-story brick building 30x35 feet, floored with 8x8 [inch square] brick, the foundation of stone, and the walls built of the usual size brick, one of which I have in my possession, taken from beneath the roots of a 5-foot cottonwood tree standing in the northwest corner of the old courthouse wall. The brick is as sound and complete as it was when placed in the building fourscore years ago. I also have one of the 8-inch bricks taken from the ground floor of the building. 

The brick utilized to build the courthouse was sourced locally to Davidsonville and often carried a distinctive orange/yellow color unlike the traditional red color. Several other bricks owned privately were found to be of a purple hue, indicative of different clay used and firing procedures during brick making. The park has two of the three common types of brick used in construction of the courthouse on display in the Visitor Center today. 






After the county seat moved, some of the Davidsonville Courthouse brick was repurposed 

Archaeological Findings







References Cited

Freeman, C. L.

  • 1899 107-108

Goeldner, Paul K.

  • 1970 Temples of Justice, Nineteenth Century County Courthouses in the Midwest and Texas. Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University. University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Merrill, Lisa, Lisa Rogers, and Kaye Passmore

  • 2008 Picturing America Teachers Resource Book. National Endowment for the Humanities in cooperation with the American Library Association, Washington, D.C.

Price, Edward T.

  • 1968 The Central Courthouse Square in the American County Seat.Geographical Review 58(1):29-60.

Reardon, Hon. Paul C.

  • 1978 The Origins and Impact of the County Court System. In Court House, A Photographic Document , edited by Richard Pare, pp. 19-33. Horizon Press, New York.