Historic Fort Smith homes featured in Belle Grove tour

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 488 views 

The Belle Grove Historic District walking tour conducted by the Clayton House covers 22 blocks of Victorian Era home construction. The tour shows the grandeur of the architecture of some of Fort Smith's wealthy and elite at the turn of the mid to late 19th century and early 20th century.

Tours are held the first and third Sunday of the month.

There are two routes for the tour, an East and a West tour. The tours cover 12 blocks and take between 60-90 minutes. The boundaries of the Belle Grove Historic District are roughly from North 5th Street to North 8th Street within "B" and "H" Streets. The Belle Grove Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

While strolling the sidewalks of the historic district, other traces of a bi-gone era such as cobblestone streets and carriage steps in the front of the residences can be seen. This along with the information given by the tour guide provided a unique history lesson of Fort Smith's formative years.

Of the restored homes, many have remained personal residences and several others utilized as professional businesses, some of which display a placard identifying the year it was built. The pride of the current owners is evident in the way the homes are maintained, many still with the original color scheme.

“Some of the homes are in need of rescue to be restored to their former glory before it's too late," said Robert Morgan, a tour guide and a board member for the Clayton House.

Morgan had unique and interesting stories behind many of the homes on the tour which kept the participants entertained. The McGinty House at 410 7th St., “was Dr. McGinty's clinic, as well as his home and is believed that he's buried in his yard, although his headstone was stolen,” Morgan explained.

Some of the interesting stories Morgan shared along the tour held some truths and some myths.

In the Belle Grove Historic District East tour, a variety of architectural styles can be seen which include Colonial Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Mission, Queen Anne, Vernacular, Gothic Revival, Craftsman, and American Foursquare.

Other notable stops on the tour are the School House Apartments, which is the former home of one of Fort Smith's first public schools and is the oldest remaining Fort Smith school building. Adjacent to the school house is Belle Grove Girls Club which was recently purchased by the city of Fort Smith.