Frontier history and modern day activities merge at Davidsonville Historic State Park to create a unique experience for all. On Friday, May 20, 2016, a new visitor center will be welcomed as the latest addition to this one-of-a-kind Arkansas state park.
“Davidsonville provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of Arkansas’s earliest settlers while at the same time offers a family friendly experience at an unbeatable price,” says Arkansas State Parks Director Grady Spann. “It’s only fitting that our latest update is a visitor center. Welcoming people and providing helpful service is an Arkansas tradition that dates back to territorial times and continues to this day.”
Historians consider Davidsonville one of the most important 19th century pioneer towns in the country. It was home to Arkansas’s first U.S. Post Office, Land Office and Courthouse – which was presided over by none other than Stephen F. Austin. Remnants of the roads, buildings and other infrastructure are still present. “Ghost” structures have been erected so visitors can get a feel for what those buildings would have looked like in 1815. Also, personal objects such as plates, cutlery and other items have been found that shed a light into the everyday lives of Davidsonville residents.
The new visitor center is reminiscent of a “Dog-Trot” style of southern architecture that was popular in the 1800s. The large outdoor porch welcomes visitors into the reception and registration area. The front porch offers comfortable rocking chairs with views of the park and the rear porch provides beautiful lake views. This area also houses a gift shop, public restrooms, as well as three staff offices and a storage and break room.
Guests will also find a new exhibit gallery – complete with a life size replica of a 19th century flatboat. This was a vital transportation method for early pioneers. The unique hands-on experience for visitors was built by John Cooper, one of the only people in the country to specialize in building 19th century watercraft. He built the boat to exact historic standards and filled it with replica items, such as furs, trapping equipment, food items and much more. The building also has an outdoor fireplace with a brick seating wall and concrete pad that serves as an outdoor classroom. Park interpreters use it to demonstrate settler techniques such as a Dutch oven hearthside cooking.
“We are so excited to offer this wonderful amenity to our visitors,” says Davidsonville Park Superintendent Kendra Harris. “I love to see the faces of children when they walk in; bringing to life the history of Davidsonville in this new interactive way is exhilarating.”
The $844,879 center was funded by the 1/8 Cent Conservation Tax. In addition to the new building, a school bus unloading area and staff and RV parking were part of the project.
Speakers at Friday’s event include Director of Arkansas State Parks Grady Spann, Park Superintendent at Davidsonville Historic State Park Kendra Harris, Executive Director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism Kane Webb and Chairman of the State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission Jim Daily. More information about the rich history of Davidsonville Historic State Park is available online at www.ArkansasStateParks.com/