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Another view of the lovely and historic Casper Reutzel House, one of the oldest and most unique homes in Fort Smith. It's located in the Belle Grove Historic District, at 401 5th St. It was built circa 1850 by Casper Reutzel, a German immigrant from Dormstadt and the owner of the largest cotton shipping company on the Arkansas River. It's in French Colonial style, featuring a pitched roof with wood shingles, stucco and wood siding exterior, a full-with veranda, double hung windows with wood shutters and a rectangular and symmetrical floor plan. It also uses a half-timber and brick noggin technique. Reportedly, as it was already standing during the Civil War, the walls of the house were pierced to allow inhabitants to fire from inside the house in relative safety, should the town or the house be attacked.

The Belle Grove Historic District comprises some 22 square blocks of homes and other historic structures, bounded by North Fifth Street, North H Street, North Eighth Street and North C Street. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 16, 1973. Known for its architectural diversity, the area boasts homes from nearly a dozen different architectural styles and spanning 130 years of construction and renovation.

About Fort Smith:

This moderately-sized town in America's heartland was founded as a western frontier military post in 1817, and, believe it or not, really WAS located on the frontier of the "wild west" for many years, as Indian Territory lay directly to the west just across the Arkansas River! The settlement was reportedly founded as a military installation to keep the peace between the Osage and emigrating Cherokee, who were being relocated to the neighboring Indian Territory (now comprised of the state of Oklahoma) from the east coast. Land speculator John Rogers later purchased the land and promoted the growth of a new civilian town, but the US government later re-established a military presence at Fort Smith during the Mexican War. Fort Smith is named for General Thomas Adams Smith (1781-1844) who commanded the US Army Rifle Regiment in 1817. It was headquartered near St. Louis, but General Smith had instructed topographical engineer Stephen H. Long to find a site where a fort could be founded on the banks of the Arkansas River. Interestingly, Smith himself never visited the town or the forts that bore his name. Sebastian County was formed in 1851 when it split from Crawford County. The army finally vacated the town in 1863, and federal troops followed shortly in 1871.

Some famous figures associated with it include Judge Isaac Parker and William Henry Harrison Clayton, who was appointed US Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas by Ulysses S. Grant. Due to a lamentable lack of law enforcement, the town had at one point become "a haven for runaway slaves, orphans, Southern Unionists" and later brothels, saloons and outlaws who ventured into town from an even more lawless area across the river. Isaac Parker served as US District Judge from 1875-1896 and was the strong arm that was needed to keep things running smoothly. He was nicknamed the Hanging Judge because he reportedly hanged 8 people for murder his first term. Over the course of his career, he sentenced 160 people to death and executed 79 of them on the nearby gallows, which can still be seen today. The courthouse is now a National Historic Site where reportedly "more men were put to death by the US Government... than in any other place in American history."

Despite its rather lawless past and colorful history, Fort Smith underwent something of an economic boom during World War I when the Fort Chaffee Military Reservation was established on the east side of the city. It's now Arkansas's second largest city with about 84,000 inhabitants. The population has increased over the past few years, partly because of the founding of the University of Arkansas, Fort Smith (previously WestArk community college), designated as such officially in 2002. The city has a total area of 53 square miles. The town has been struck by three major tornadoes (1898, 1927 and 1996), the last of which caused great damage to the old downtown area, but much of it has since been restored.

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Additional Photos by Terez Anon (terez93) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 79 W: 78 N: 878] (1685)
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