Friday, November 16, 2012

Van Buren, Arkansas

Our home is currently parked in this little burg.  Van Buren is just across the Arkansas River from Fort Smith.  Our first stop Thursday was Logtown Hill.  During the Civil War Federal artillary was positioned near the crest of the hill to take the town and shell the steamboats docked at the riverfront.   Residents of the town were witness to the retreat of the Rebel Army through Van Buren.  Story has it that after the war veterans sat and talked on opposite sides of Main Street, depending on which side they supported.  The Visitor's Center was our next stop where we picked up a guide for the historic buildings on Main Street.
The building on the corner in the above picture is the King Opera House, built in 1891 in the Victorian architectural style.  Jenny Lind and William Jennings Bryant performed here.
 According to a town brochure the Crawford County Bank Building, pictured above, was the "epitome of Victorian elegance" when it opened its doors in 1889.  Also on Main Street use to be the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company's distribution place.  The 1892 building still has on its facade the trademark "A and Eagle" of the company.  There are many more historic buildings on Main Street, I just mentioned a few.  And what is amazing to me is that Van Buren is still a vibrant town, many of the old buildings have shops and restaurants in them today.  And, last of all, I do want to mention the Crawford County Courthouse, also on Main Street.  It was rebuilt in the late 1800s and is the oldest functioning courthouse west of the Mississippi. The fountain contains the statue of Hebe, Greek Goddess of Youth and Happiness.  A sign here notes that the Butterfield Stage Route between St.Louis and San Francisco ran down Main Street and crossed the river at this point.
We had a great time touring the town and it was getting late in the day when we were done.  Had we known that our next stop was going to be as equally impressive, maybe we would have moved through the town a bit faster.  That stop was at the Drennen-Scott House.  John Drennen's dad fought for George Washington during the Revolutionary War.  John Drennen, a local merchant, was one of the founders of Van Buren, and  he owned the town's only ferry.  He was one of the federal agents appointed to over-see the Five Civilized Tribes.  Story also has it that a young slave girl of his was taken from him by the Underground Railroad.  He was a Confederate sympathizer and left town when the Union Army came in, returning home after the war.  His house, a sprawling one-story frame house, overlooks the Arkansas River.  We were fortunate that our guide, a descendent of John Drennen,  happened to be volunteering there on Thursday.  She shared with us her memories of visiting her great aunt at the home when she was a young child.  The Drennen family owned the home until 20005 when it was sold to the University of Arkansas.  The interior decorations and all of its antebellum furnishings has remained in the house through the years.  Highlights include a freize that was displayed in the Arkansas House at the 1893 Chicago's World Fair, a 1740s grandfather clock,  and a Steinway piano manufactured in 1860. The house, pictured below, has had additions added to it.

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