Collections Blog

Collections Blog

The Man Who Built Arkansas

Old State House Museum - Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Our collection is privileged to be the home of over 8,000 architectural drawings by Charles Thompson, one of the most successful architects in Arkansas history. His firm designed more than 2,000 buildings throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries and hundreds of them are still standing today. Thompson is best known for designing Little Rock City Hall, as well as the Washington County Courthouse in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Charles Thompson’s life was not always easy. At fourteen years old, he was orphaned and as a result he had to quit school and work at a mill in order to support his six siblings. However, luck would be on his side. When Thompson was not at the mill, he worked for an architect who introduced him to the industry. In 1886, Thompson had the opportunity to work with Benjamin Bartlett, a Little Rock architect, as a draftsman. This led to Thompson becoming a partner at the Bartlett and Thompson firm at 19 years old, and in 1890 the firm became his when Bartlett moved to Mississippi!

Throughout his architectural career, Thompson was able to build and maintain relationships with local businesses and people, but more importantly, adapt to the changing architectural styles over his forty-eight year career. This allowed his firm to continue to prosper and land him some important projects, such as the El Dorado High School and the Peter Hotze House in Little Rock.

We here at the Old State House Museum are fortunate to maintain this impressive and important collection of Arkansas history.