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Opposite Page: The Van Buren County Courthouse, the smallest courthouse in the state, stands as a striking example of the Art Deco style. Top Left: An historical marker notes the establishment of the first Van Buren County Courthouse in a one-room log house in the Bloomington community. Top Right: Van Buren County Circuit Clerk Ester Bass built much of the new wooden furniture in the recently refurbished courthouse.

lawless thugs battled and preyed on the local population. Bush- whackers burned the courthouse in 1865. Te local Methodist Church was pressed into service as a temporary seat of justice until a new one was built — another two-story frame building constructed in 1869 that would serve until 1934, outlasting a couple of burglaries and a pair of arson attempts. Economic disaster hit Van Buren County hard during the Great

Depression, and local leaders turned to one of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal agencies to replace the aging court- house in Clinton. Te Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works (soon known as the Public Works Administration, or PWA) was created in 1933 to help fund local public construction and infrastructure projects. Te administration of County Judge John H. John- son was successful in procuring PWA funding for a new building for county business. Little Rock architects Frank Erhart and

Howard Eichenbaum were hired to design the new courthouse, PWA Project No. 3454. Te architects and builders Earl and Carl Bird used the natural stone that was so abundant in Van Buren County to create the building, getting their supply from a quarry north of Dennard. Te Van Buren County Courthouse was completed in 1934 and reflects a uniquely local interpretation of the Art Deco style of architecture, a style that was frequently used in New Deal-era courthouse construction. Te Van Buren County Courthouse

windows that distinguish the building off from the room. Following a major exterior restoration funded by an AHPP County Courthouse Restoration Grant, the courtroom was largely restored in a 2015 project that saw its original dimen- sions restored, the ceiling altered to allow in natural light from the windows, the original audience benches refinished, and new furniture added to the front of the room, much of it built by County Circuit Clerk Ester Bass himself. Te Van Buren County Courthouse stands today as a strik- ing example of the Art Deco style, ready to continue serving the needs of its citizens as it reminds them of their past.

tion Program is the County Courthouse Restoration Grant Program. Created in 1989, this grant program has helped to extend the lives of courthouses that hold vital links to community pride and local history. Tese grants are funded through the Real Estate Transfer Tax, administered by the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council. Since the beginning of the program, the AHPP has awarded more than $18.6 million to 69 historic courthouses and courthouse an- nexes around the state for use in rehabilitating, preserving and protecting these important historic resources. Since 1995, Van Buren County has received 11 grants totaling $244,127 for the Van Buren County Courthouse.

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program County Courthouse Restoration Grants awarded to Van Buren County

measures just 100 feet by 43 feet and holds a basement, county offices on the first floor, and a courtroom on the second. Te interior was remodeled in the 1970s and ‘80s, and the courtroom in particular was changed, with interior walls moved and a dropped ceiling added that cut the tall, metal-framed


FY1995 FY2000 FY2002 FY2004 FY2008 FY2013

TOTAL: ADA access ADA entrance and elevator

Exterior paint and window restoration Restoration master plan

First-floor ADA modifications Exterior tuck-point restoration


$43,350 $26,500 $11,000 $65,377 $89,600

$244,127 Among the many programs and services of the Arkansas Historic Preserva-


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