In 1826, Arkansas was still 10 years away from statehood, life was rough, politics were dangerous and the forests and wild bears of Arkansas circled the small settlement of Little Rock, waiting on a chance to reclaim the cleared land. It was also the year that Jesse Hinderliter began work on Hinderlinter Grog Shop, Little Rock’s oldest surviving building. The Grog Shop,along with four other pre-Civil War homes, now serves as the centerpiece of the Historic Arkansas Museum in downtown Little Rock.
The Grog Shop served as a tavern on its lower floor and the home for Hinderliter, his wife and two slaves. The building began its life as a red oak log structure. Clapboard siding was added, along with a porch, at a later date. The tavern served as a sometime meeting place for the territorial legislature, and local legend maintains that the last meeting of that body was held in the Grog Shop.
William Woodruff’s Print Shop was an early home of Arkansas’s first newspaper, The Arkansas Gazette, a paper that lives on in the form of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Woodruff moved from New York to Arkansas in 1819, bringing with him a Rampage Press. The Print Shop features a replica of that press, along with many of Woodruff’s original furnishings. The medicinal herb garden outside is maintained by the Herb Society if America and features plants used by early Arkansas settlers and Native Americans.
In 1848, Scottish stonemason Robert Brownlee built a brick Federal style home for James and Isabelle Brownlee, his brother and sister-in-law. The house features marbleized wood fireplace mantles, similar to what is seen in the Old State House, which was built during the same time period. The Brownlee home is furnished as it would have been in the mid 1800s with furniture that belonged to former resident C.F.M. Nolan.
The McVicar House was built on the same block by Brownlee’s good friend James McVicar. The house was built from white oak as opposed to the brick that Brownlee favored. Both homes feature the symmetrical style that was popular in the 1840s. McVicar, who was a veteran of the U.S.-Mexican War, left Arkansas in 1849 for the California Gold Rush. He eventually returned to Arkansas where he married and lived out his remaining years.
The Plum Bayou Log House is the only home on the grounds that is not on its original block. Originally located in the small Scott township, the building is thought to date to the 1830s. In 1857, the structure was found to be in a state of disrepair. The Pemberton family of North Carolina restored the home for their own use. It was move to the museum grounds in the 1970s and now serves as a hands-on educational exhibit, allowing visitors to experience life on the frontier.
The Historic Arkansas Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tours are given hourly except during the noon hour. Admission is free, but guided tours are $2.50 for adults, $1.50 for seniors and $1 for children under 18. Free tours are offered the first Sunday of every month.