History walking tour to feature courthouse, 10 more Searcy stops

By Kayla Baugh Published July 14, 2017 at 10:58 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

Revis Edmonds, preservation outreach coordinator for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, stands in front of the White County Courthouse as he prepares for the Walks Through History tour. The 11-stop tour will take place Saturday in Searcy.

SEARCY — Stepping through the present will offer a glimpse into the past as the Walks Through History tour series visits downtown Searcy.

Revis Edmonds, preservation outreach coordinator for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, said the tour series features historic sites in Arkansas each month from March to December.

Tours are held Saturdays and typically begin at 11 a.m. unless otherwise specified, he said.

Edmonds said all tours are free and open to the public. Reservations are not required.

“An AHPP historian delivers a lecture about the properties while leading guests on a walking tour,” he said.

The tour in Searcy will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday in front of the White County Courthouse.

“The White County Courthouse, built in 1871, is said to be the oldest functional courthouse in Arkansas,” Edmonds said. “[It] has an elaborate clock tower that resembles the Liberty Bell and dates back to 1855.”

Edmonds said the courtroom was restored to its 19th-century look after a courthouse fire took place years ago.

A structure was recently constructed on the courthouse lawn to honor White County soldiers who died in World War I, World War II and the Korean War.

A monument honoring soldiers who died in the Vietnam War already stood on the lawn, he said.

Edmonds said the tour will make 11 stops, including the courthouse, the Mayfair Hotel, Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Rialto Theatre.

“Cumberland Presbyterian Church was built in 1903 for a congregation organized in 1824 and is a fine example of Romanesque and Classical Revival architecture,” Edmonds said.

“The Rialto Theatre is one of the few buildings in all of White County to exhibit art-deco styling, particularly after alterations in 1940, and is the only theater with that styling. Its neon marquee, a local landmark in and of itself, is also the most elaborate known in the county.”

The AHPP works to save the special places that tell Arkansas’ story, he said.

“We oversee the state’s historic-marker program; survey historic buildings and districts as part of the process for placing them on the National Register of Historic Places; administer grant and tax-credit programs for historic preservation; and sponsor numerous education programs for adults and young people,” Edmonds said.

Edmonds said he enjoys traveling around the state and sharing stories, as well as sharing the cultural and economic benefits of preservation.

“I emphasize that historic preservation is one of many parts of a toolbox of resources to restore and renew areas that have struggled in recent years, and that appreciation of the past is an important part of uniting communities in

revitalization efforts,” he said.

Edmonds said the Walks Through History program is funded by the Arkansas Real Estate Transfer Tax and the National Park Service.

The Walks Through History tours are co-sponsored statewide by the Arkansas Humanities Council, he said.

The Searcy tour is locally co-sponsored by Main Street Searcy and the White County Historical Society.

Bill Leach, president of the White County Historical Society, said he plans on attending the tour in Searcy.

“I always enjoy all of the tours; however, in Searcy, I enjoy looking at and hearing the history of the historic churches: Trinity Episcopal, First Presbyterian, Cumberland Presbyterian and First Methodist,” Leach said.

The tours remind people of their community’s history and bring forgotten parts of a town’s history to light, he said.

Leach said the tours bring visitors into the community, adding to the local economy as well.

“Over the years, we have

assisted with these walks not only in Searcy, but also in Beebe, Kensett, Judsonia, Bald Knob, Bradford, Pangburn, Smyrna, Fredonia and Denmark,” he said.

The program is a unique opportunity for people to see their community highlighted statewide, he said.

Leach said the WCHS has had a good working relationship with the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program for 30 years and has given support to Main Street Searcy since the program’s inception.

Edmonds said the mission of the program is to “to gain a greater knowledge and appreciation for the heritage of our state through telling and sharing the stories of our people through the places [where] they have lived, worked and grown.”

“To my knowledge, this is one of the most comprehensive adult-education outreach programs in the realm of state and local heritage in the country,” Edmonds said.

Staff writer Kayla Baugh can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or kbaugh@arkansasonline.com.

None Kayla Baugh can be reached at 501-244-4307 or kbaugh@arkansasonline.com.

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