Little Rock, Arkansas, is home to a remarkable heritage of both Native American and European settlement history that spans almost 1,500 years. If you’re a history buff, plan to spend plenty of time in Little Rock. With almost 250 locations on the National Register of Historic Places, history is alive, well-preserved, and just waiting for you to discover its secrets.
You can even download the Arkansas Civil Right History app on iPhone or Android to learn more about the numerous sites in Little Rock that have played significant roles in the city’s civil rights history. Make sure your smartphone is up-to-date by visiting one of the AT&T stores in Arkansas to get the best mobile app options for learning about both the familiar and the less well-known people, places and events in Arkansas history. The app covers so many interesting history lessons including some of the following locations that are a must see.
The oldest known settlement in the area is on the banks of the Lower Mississippi River just outside of Little Rock. Believed to have been constructed by Plum Bayou culture of Native Americans and occupied between around 650 to 1050 A.D., the Toltec Mounds site consists of 18 astrologically oriented mounds that appear to have served a religious and ceremonial purpose. You can step deep into the past as you tour the grounds and view artifacts in the museum. Active archeological sites are still at this location, so you might be privy to new discoveries and artifacts during your visit.
The Rock that Started it All
Hundreds of years ago when the land was still wilderness, the primary method of exploring was over the river. A small natural landing and rock outcropping along what is now the Arkansas River was a prominent landmark in the area delineating the change from delta plains of the lower Mississippi River Basin to interior mountains. As a French explorer named Jean-Baptiste Benard de la Harpe was passing through the area in 1722, he named it “La Petit Roche”, or The Little Rock (as opposed to a larger landmark upriver). The area came to serve as an important river crossing for travelers using the Southwest Trail, and gradual colonization began to occur there in the early- to mid-1800s.
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Oldest State House West of the Mississippi
As homes and civic buildings began to spring up throughout the area, construction on the building that would become the Arkansas State House began in 1833. Arkansas officially became a state in 1836, and the first session of the General Assembly was held in 1837 though the building was still under construction. Though the building is now a museum, it is still an important part of Arkansas cultural identity; Bill Clinton chose this site for both of his presidential election night celebrations.
Civil War and Civil Rights
Since its inception, Little Rock has been featured prominently in many of the events that defined America as a nation. Little Rock is home to several Civil War battlefields and historic buildings recognized on both the National Register of Historic Places and list of National Historic Landmarks. One of those buildings is Little Rock Central High School, which became the focal point of not only racial tension after the Supreme Court ruled school segregation was unconstitutional, but also sparked a showdown between then-President Eisenhower and then-Governor Faubus for control of the forces entrusted with keeping the peace and upholding the constitution.
The Quapaw Quarter
The Quapaw Quarter is one of the most well-preserved neighborhoods in the country, with more than 200 homes listed on the National Register. Named for the indigenous Native American tribes of the area during exploration and settlement, the Quapaw Quarter boasts extensive revitalization and restoration of several important landmarks, prominent homes, and businesses that formed the heart of the original city.
No matter what period of history interests you most, Little Rock has something to intrigue you. From ancient settlements to antebellum structures and civil rights icons, Little Rock is a piece of living history still in the making.