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Arkansas Capitol Deteriorates Almost Beyond Repair

During the 1890s, it became increasingly clear that in spite of the extensive rebuilding of 1885-86, the State House’s days were numbered. Barely six decades old, it had nevertheless “deteriorated almost beyond repair.”

Serious discussions of a new capitol took place among legislators as early as 1893 but made no progress; an existing state debt, financial caution and lack of a suitable building site combined to impede the idea. In 1895, the session’s opening address from Governor James Paul Clarke did not include a call for a new capitol.

This did not discourage Pulaski County representative Thomas Newton, who introduced a bill calling for new capitol on January 28. Newton’s measure called for a new building on the site of the existing state house, to cost no more than 1 million dollars.

The bill submerged into committee consideration, then returned to the House on March 4.

It was opposed by Rep. Jerry South of Baxter County and William Lake of Sevier. Lake quipped that the State House was old and ugly, “but so are the poor houses of Sevier County.” As for the reputed “bad air” in the building, another skeptic opined that “a little apple brandy” could remedy any problems attributed to the lack of ventilation.

Ultimately, Newton’s measure was defeated, but not before a legislative supporter yelled, “Someday we are going to move out of this old barn!”

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