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The Ledge Really Can Really Come Home Again

Old State House Museum - Friday, May 11, 2018

Many of us have heard the phrase, “You can go home again.” Even family therapist Monica McGoldrick used it as the title and theme of a book on family relationships. But how does it apply with institutions, like our Arkansas General Assembly? In fact, since 1911, the lawmakers have made a few return visits to state government’s former family home.

From 1911 to 1951, due to the presence of the state’s medical school, numerous public agencies, and the 1947-51 restorations, the lawmakers did not venture back to the institution’s ancestral home, nor did they do so for several years afterward.

The 1979 Constitutional Convention held its plenary session in the House Chamber. But the first known instance for the legislature was a brief Senate session in 1973 that convened in the original House (later Senate) chamber for the purpose of the signing of the act officially changing the name of the building officially to the Old State House by Governor Dale Bumpers, according to former Lieutenant Governor Bob Riley in an oral history interview with Marvin Franklin in 1979.

Governor Bill Clinton at the Old State House Museum in 1983The lawmakers would not return until February 14, 1983, to approve the enabling legislation for the state’s Sesquicentennial celebrations in 1986. It would be more than thirty years later that the solons would return to the Old State House, this time for an actual lawmaking session, the first in almost a century.

Due to construction at the Capitol, on June 30, 2014, Governor Mike Beebe called the session at the Old State House to address solutions to rising teacher’s insurance premiums and provide additional funding for correctional facilities. House Speaker Davy Carter spoke of the event’s significance: “History teaches us valuable lessons that we all carry with us when making decisions about our future.What better way to remember our heritage and honor the historic structures that shaped our state, than by passing legislation in the oldest standing Capitol building west of the Mississippi.”

Hear, hear, Mr. Speaker. We couldn’t agree more. So come back from time to time, just for old times’ sake. The welcome mat’s always out at your first home.