The Old State House Museum

More From Little Rock More From Arkansas

A restless male entity is still working here, even after suffering personal folly.

DESCRIPTION

Mission of The Old State Museum is “To interpret the history of Arkansas from statehood to the present, to preserve the Old State House, and to collect and preserve artifacts that aid in that interpretation and preservation.”

Unlike other old state capitol museums, (Old Illinois State Capitol), it is not a step back in history as all the chambers etc are not set up to resemble what they looked like in the days that this was an active, current state capitol. However, there are displays that show what it looked like, as well as exhibits about Arkansas political history and the people who made policy here.

The inside decor, the flooring the Greek Revival features are still there throughout the building, which is a comfort to those who wish this building had been fully restored to what it originally looked like.

The State Supreme Court and the Legislature met here which means that there was a Supreme Court Chamber and a Representative Hall, a Senate Chamber as well as the Governor’s Office, Court offices, and offices for Representatives.  Each branch of government had a separate structure.

In the 1880s, the whole structure was renovated, mostly enclosing all three individual branches of government, connecting them. Also, an addition was added onto the back of this newly connected State House building where offices for the Arkansas State Legislators were now located.

Also, the original staircases leading up to the Chambers were very steep and hazardous, nicknamed “Breakneck.” They were replaced with safer but beautiful Victorian staircases.

The Old State House has two Rotundas. The top one is an 1830’s Greek-Revival inspired architecture with the largest Balcony floor. The second Rotunda is inspired by the Victorian period built in the 1880s.

 

HISTORY

In the very beginning of the 1820s. people were moving with enthusiasm into the Arkansas Territory in such numbers that Arkansas qualified to apply to become a state in America; to have an elected body in their own Capitol building.

Kentucky architect, Gideon Shryock decided on the Greek Revival style to “emphasize the connection between  the newest state of the long United States and the original democracy of Ancient Greece.”

Throughout its history in the 19th Century, The Old State House has been the place for unusual behavior for politicians.

A Disgraced Speaker of the House

In 1837, during the first year of Arkansas’ statehood a year after Arkansas joined the Union as a state, Speaker of the House, John Wilson, stabbed to death Rep. Joseph J Anthony, after one too many heated discussions between the two.  It started with John Wilson calling Anthony out of order. Anthony started to personally attack Wilson and threatened him. Right after they had fisticuffs on the floor of the August chamber, Wilson was out of control and killed Anthony with a knife. Yikes!

Oh my! Though Wilson was acquitted of murder because it was an “excusable homicide,” his political career was “in tatters and he was a broken man.” Uh oh.

In 1860, the legislators had strong debates about whether or not to leave the Union. The first vote went against leaving and joining the Confederacy. Another vote came up and the legislature voted this time to leave the Union.

In 1861, the Arkansas Secession Convention of 1861 and became the seat of the Confederate State Capitol in Arkansas.

In 1863, Union soldiers drove out the Confederacy. Then the State Capitol became headquarters of “a Unionist State.”

A Governorship taken by force! Brooks/Baxter War.

In the 1872 gubernatorial campaign, both Governor Joseph Brooks and Judge Elisha Baxter ran as Republicans. Governor Brooks as a politician urged Afro-American citizens to register as Republicans, which didn’t go over well with people in his party. Not surprisingly, his opponent, Judge Elisha Baxter won the governorship.

Sworn into office in 1873, Governor Baxter also made himself unpopular with his Republican supporters by restoring voting rights to former Confederate officers. The state of Arkansas now had a Democratic majority once again. Perhaps Baxter was really a Democrat who only ran as a Republican to try to get his foot in the door. During Reconstruction, the Republican Party took control because many former Confederates members couldn’t vote. The Republicans had the edge until Baxter’s action. Not Good!

In 1874, ex-governor Joseph Brooks put together a militia of more than six hundred men and took control of the State House in Little Rock. He declared himself Governor. Yikes! This behavior was more like what happens in a Banana Republic than in a constitutional government based on law and order.

Governor-elect Elisha Baxter did the same and gathered about two thousand to fight the supporters of ex-governor Brooks. Federal troops were stationed between the two forces; not exactly the way folks in a Republic are supposed to behave. After Federal troops were given the ok from U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, they forcefully removed Brooks and his supporters and let Baxter back inside the Arkansas State House.

That same year, however, President Grant offered Brooks a consolation prize by appointing him as the Postmaster at Little Rock, “a patronage position.”

One wonders if any more encores of bad behavior occurred in the following years. Perhaps, but not to this level.

After the 1880 renovation of the State House, it was now big enough to house everyone connected to the work done in this government building, but the writing was on the wall. In 1911, the new Arkansas State Capitol was finished, and the old State House was vacated, but not for long. Who wouldn’t love to have space in this glorious, well-loved place?

The Arkansas School of Medical Sciences moved inside, making the Old State House the new headquarters for the Crossett Experiment. They made great discoveries here in conquering two diseases prevalent in the South: Hookworm and Malaria. They received global recognition for their treatments, as these treatments saved lives all over the world.

Throughout the Twentieth Century, a variety of organizations set up shop here, taking advantage of this glorious building. The Arkansas War Memorial, the first headquarters of the Arkansas State Police and various statewide patriotic organizations’ offices enjoyed their stay here.

In 1947, the Arkansas Legislature declared that the Old State House was now a museum, protecting it as a state treasure to be maintained by taxpayer money.  People in Arkansas loved their Old State House and welcomed this occurrence.

Because the interior and exterior architecture were not changed since the 1880s, The Old State Capitol Museum building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. There were  “two periods of significance.” The years from 1825-to 1849 and from 1875 to 1899.

HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS

Having a career or reputation ruined can cause restless spirits.

Aaron Burr Bed and Breakfast PA (Aaron Burr was found not guilty from killing Hamilton in a duel, but his reputation was ruined for good in politics, even though Hamilton had spread lies about him for years. He takes consolation in this structure named for him).

Tavern at Clinton MD (Mary Surratt was unjustly convicted of being in the conspiracy to kill President Lincoln, causing her to be hanged and forever linked to bad folks who planned this, ruining her reputation forever).

T’Frere’s House LA (A school teacher Amélie Comeaux who was either accidentally drowned or was murdered was maligned by the Catholic Church who said she suicided and was refused burial with her family).

The Old State Hall Museum AR (In 1837, Speaker of the House, John Wilson, may have been acquitted of murder of Rep.Joseph J Anthony but he lost his political career and suffered a depression and brokenness; never recovering. He went to his grave a depressed person).

Having a goal to achieve an action and finally getting it done after a lot of effort to only have it taken away in this life can cause a haunting in the after-life.

Abraham Lincoln; Tomb, State Capitol and White House hauntings; Il and D.C.(Abraham Lincoln as President led his nation through a bloody war, and maintained the Union. However, he was murdered before he could finish the job of truly uniting both factions; the North with the South).

Glessner House IL (A popular architect, Henry Hobson Richardson had built many fine structures. However, his blueprints for this spectacular creation weren’t done yet when he died, so he didn’t get to participate or see the finished home in his life-time).

The Alamo TX (Defenders who had protected The Alamo, for so many years had a great deal of dedication. They ultimately lost to Mexican forces that resulted in a slaughter of themselves as well as nearly everyone still inside).

The Old State Hall Museum AR (Governor Joseph Brooks was incensed when it came to light that Governor-elect Baxter turned out to really be a Democrat in disguise, giving political control back to the Democrats. Joseph Brook put up a fight in protest and managed to keep Governor-elect Baxter out of the State House until Brooks was ultimately defeated by the Federal Government).

A sudden death by murder or accident can cause a spirit to want to continue in the life that was taken from him or her.

Kahler Grand MN (Although brutally murdered, the Hershey Candy Heiress decided to stay in a place  in this world that made her happy).

Lumber Baron Inn CO (Two spirits of girls still stay in the place where they were murdered, perhaps remembering their lives, and maybe reliving their brutal murders).

Oregon State Capitol OR (A politician who was killed in a farming accident still is working for his constituency).

Old State House AR (The spirit of murdered Rep. Joseph J Anthony may still be going through the motions of serving his district despite being dead).

 

MANIFESTATIONS

Central Hall on the Second Floor appears to be a hot spot for spirits dressed in 19th Century clothing. While none of the spirits seen have been identified, listed below are the suspects who may be haunting the Old State House.

Spirit of John Wilson

He may be remembering his proudest moments being Speaker of the House in the Representative Chamber.

John may be seen walking the hallways on government business.

He may be in his original office preparing for the day.

John is probably focusing on that fateful day that destroyed his political career; wishing with all his might that he didn’t kill Anthony.

Spirit of Joseph Brooks

Joseph may be remembering his  accomplishments of  a sitting Governor, but probably also his abrupt defeat of being removed from the State House by forces he thought would be friendly to his takeover.

He may be in the room where his Governor’s Office was located.

Joseph Brooks may be where he signed passed bills into laws.

He may be walking the halls going to meetings with Legislators remembering his greatest accomplishments.

Spirit of Representative Anthony

Anthony may be in his old office, preparing his arguments for the passage of a bill or a rebuttal to arguments favoring passage.

He may be walking the halls together to important meetings with other legislators.

Anthony may be in the Representative Chamber arguing his opinions infront of the full chamber of representatives.

He may be reliving his death, regretting the words he spoke that sent John Wilson into a rage, resulting in death.

Spirits of Politicians

May still be doing what they loved in life; representing the people of their district.

They may be arguing in the Representative or Senate Chambers for causes close to the heart.

The politicians may be preparing for future presentations, committee meetings in their offices.

They may be walking in the hallways to meet with others or go about their business

General Activity

Some people have felt a cold hand on their shoulder.

Unexplained cold spots have been reported throughout the Old State House.

PARANORMAL FINDINGS

Many people have seen a lot of activity on the second floor; hallways, old offices and the main Central Chamber.

Other activity could have been witnessed or occurred in all the places that 19th Century politicians worked.

 

STILL HAUNTED?

Most Probably so, despite the fact that no hard evidence has been shared. There is probably more than one spirit who is active here. Perhaps all the spirits mentioned above are still here and others that haven’t revealed themselves to the living. Cold spots are felt all over the building suggesting this to be the case.

The old saying states; “Politicians never die, they just fade away.” The spirits who have stayed here may be remembering their struggles, their accomplishments, the fine verbal battles they had in the cause of getting a good bill passed and reliving defeats as well. Perhaps, some are seeking peace for their restlessness, or just want to spend their after-life in the place that they loved.

 

LOCATION

300 West Markham Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
(501) 324-9685

 

The Old State House Museum is located in downtown Little Rock, between Robinson Convention Center and the State House Convention Center.

 

SOURCES INCLUDE

aboutlittlerock.com
Old State House Website
oldstatehouse.com
NPS.gov
npgallery.nps.gov
arkansashauntedhouses.com
Encyclopedia of Arkansas website
encyclopediaofarkansas.net
Website: Wikipedia, Old State House webpage

 
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Haunts in Little Rock Haunts in Arkansas