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Arkansas Properties on the National Register of Historic Places: Montgomery County Courthouse, Mount Ida

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program - Monday, January 26, 2015

The Montgomery County Courthouse at Mount Ida in Montgomery County was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 27, 1976. You can read this and other Arkansas National Register nominations at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/historic-properties/national-register/search.aspx.

STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE

The most impressive structure in the small town of Mt. Ida is the Montgomery County Courthouse building. It is a large, squarish, two-storey rock building that features uniform window fenestration, a double-leaf entranceway and a truncated hipped roof. Simple, yet bulky, classical detail embellishes the front (south) elevation of the building in the form of a large pediment, supported by two pier-like pilasters.

The architecture is rooted in the locale and in the people of Montgomery County. The pilasters sustaining the front pediment are formed with rough stone removed from local fields. In a similar fashion the function that the Montgomery Courthouse symbolizes is tied with the region and its inhabitants. The county government housed within the courthouse is the closest and most personal contact between the people of Montgomery County and representative democracy.

Montgomery County was formed in l845, just nine years after the first white settlement appeared on the banks of the Ouachita near Mt. Ida. The seat of county government has always occupied the square in Mt. Ida where the current courthouse building stands. The field-stone courthouse now occupying the square was erected in 1923. Recently, however, the building lost some of its country charm when a sprawling one-storey addition was tacked on to the rear of the building.

County government is conducted by a body of officials, elected in a county-wide ballot, in conjunction with the Quorum Court. The officials who are elected by county-wide vote perform administrative and legislative duties, while the Quorum (or levying) Court is primarily responsible for county fiscal policy and the performance of minor judicial duties. Members of the Quorum Court are called Justices of the Peace, and they are elected by a specified number of electors who reside in townships encompassed by the county. Montgomery County has seven officials who are elected at-large in the county election. They are the county judge, county clerk, sheriff, assessor, treasurer, surveyor and coroner. Several appointees assist these county officials in their duties.

The primary functions and duties of county government are to assess and tax property for revenue; maintain county highways; help support a county agricultural agent; provide a minimum standard of public health; supervise the ballots during county, primary and general elections; provide rural law enforcement; maintain a county jail; regulate the incorporation and boundary expansion of towns and cities; issue marriage licenses; systematically file records of deeds, mortgages, liens and bonds; and perform judicial duties in minor civil or criminal cases.

Several appointive boards, such as the Delinquent Tax Board and the Board of Equalization perform services generally related to some aspect of fiscal review.

The county also serves to some extent as a basic administrative and judicial unit in state government. The Department of Welfare and the state auditorial department are active at the county level. Circuit, chancery and juvenile courts all hold hearings in the county courthouse.

As a rule in Arkansas, the county courthouse building is the most lavish public building within the county. This is certainly the case for the Montgomery County Courthouse in Mt. Ida. This emphasis upon size and detail reflects the importance which the citizens of each county place upon local government, for county government administers to basic local needs of the people, and by doing so has helped to determine patterns which history has followed in each region of the state.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Arkansas Almanac, 1972 Edition. Little Rock: Arkansas Almanac Inc., 1972.

County Government Across the Nation. Ed. by Paul W. Wagoner. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1950.



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