Chris Adams
Historic Washington Architecture
Historic Washington Architecture

As the 19th century progressed, a genuine sense of national identity ignited a quest for something unique in American aesthetics in terms of art and architecture. Architects and artists alike sought to inject their creations with the spirit of liberty and independence, drawing inspiration from the halls of Greek democracy. The allure of the Greek Revival style, imported from Europe, resonated deeply with people who saw it as a reflection of their own struggle for freedom. The stirring saga of the Greek War of Independence in 1821 further fueled American sentiments, forging a connection between Greece's fight against the Turks and their own quest for liberation from British rule. Thus, the Greek architectural style became the chosen symbol of American identity and the preferred architectural mode to emulate.

These Greek Revival architectural-styled homes, with their columns, intricately adorned capitals, and low triangular gabled pediments, stood as monuments to an era rich in democratic principles and classical ideals. The wealth and growth of Hempstead County and the spirit of capitalism fueled a desire to possess such homes, which began a wave of skilled carpenters in Washington, swelling the ranks of artisans to twenty-two by the dawn of the 1850s. However, as the decade waned, the frenetic tempo of construction slowed, leaving only nine carpenters in the once-thriving town.

The enduring relics of this architectural era serve as silent witnesses to its brilliance. Featuring pedimented front porches framed by columns and central hallways flanked by rooms on either side, these homes epitomized the essence of the Greek Revival style. Some hallways were even expanded to accommodate additional rooms, while two-story residences mirrored the same layout on multiple levels.

Yet, amidst the dominance of Greek Revival splendor, the architectural panorama retained its diverse color. Log houses, in their varied forms, from humble cabins to simple dogtrot houses, dotted the landscape, preserving the simplicity of yesteryear. Similarly, the town boasted brick buildings fashioned from local clay bricks, despite their tendency to weather over time.

As the sun set over Washington during the trying times of the Civil War in the 1860s, so did the push for the Greek Revival style of American architecture. Washington's time is now etched in stone in the annals of Arkansas history. You can now visit and see for yourself an example of a humble log cabin home that many pioneers called home, as well as a Dogtrot, Federal, and stately Greek Revival frame houses that stand as a beacon of elegance and refinement. Each structure tells a story of resilience, innovation, and the enduring spirit of the people of southwest Arkansas.